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Aequeosalinocalcalinoceraceoaluminosocupreovitriolic

12 Sep 2017

A preposterously long word turned up on HH this week: an eighteenth century English physician named Dr Edward Strother coined the adjective aequeosalinocalcalinoceraceoaluminosocupreovitriolic to describe the spa waters in the city of Bath:

 

As some of you clever, clever people pointed out on Twitter, Strother invented that word by stringing together a series of Latin word roots each describing some quality of the chemical composition of Bath’s spa waters. 

 

So despite its similarity to aqua, the Latin word for “water”, that initial aequeo– is taken from aequus, a Latin word meaning “equal” or “balanced”—perhaps in the sense that all the elements that follow are perfectly well-balanced in Bath’s healing waters. After that there’s salino–, “salt”; calcalino–, “chalk, calcium”; ceraceo–, “wax”; alumino– “aluminium”; cupreo– “copper”; and finally the adjective –vitriolic, probably used in the sense of “resembling vitriol”, or perhaps more loosely, “slightly acidic”. 

 

Put together, you have a word that essentially describes mineral-rich waters that are slightly waxy to the touch. And at 52 letters—according to the Guinness Book of Records—it’s one of the longest words ever legitimately used in published English. 

 

 

 

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