Lifestyle and Culture

German Loses Its Longest Word

July 23, 2013
German flags

German flags

Germans have eliminated a 63-letter word, thought to be the longest in the German language, after the European Union changed regulations on the testing of cattle, according to the BBC.

The dropped word, Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz, means “law delegating beef label monitoring.” It was introduced in 1999 in the wake of the BSE crisis, or “mad cow disease.” But with the EU calling a halt to the testing of healthy cattle at abattoirs (slaughterhouses), the need for the word vanished.

German Famous For Tapeworm Words

The term wasn’t found in any German dictionaries, but was used in official government documents. The Germans have a history of using long, compound words known as “tapeworm” words, which are generally used to describe something legal or scientific.

According to the BBC, the longest word to be found in the Duden, or German dictionary, is Kraftfahrzeughaftpflichtversicherung, meaning “automobile liability insurance.”

The search is now on for the language’s new longest word. Among the contenders is said to be Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitaenswitwe, meaning the “widow of a Danube steamboat company captain.”

The now dead term made the English language’s supercalifragilisticexpialidocious pale by comparison.

Blogging on Tapeworm Words

A blogger who uses the online name of Frau Frown found German’s tapeworm words so interesting she blogged about a new one each week. Frau Frown who writes in English, speaks beginner German and speaks elementary Mandarin Chinese awarded her tapeworm word of the week once to Sonntagnachmittagsspaziergang which meansSunday Afternoon Stroll.”

German’s other tapeworm words include:

  • Herzkreislaufwiederbelebung (heart-circle-run-again-enlivenment)

    •  English translation: cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)

  • Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung

    •  English translation: speed limit

  • Hoechsgeschwindigkeitsbegrenzung

    •  English translation: maximum speed limit

  • Hubschrauberlandeplatz

    •  English translation: helicopter landing pad

  • Rolltreppenbenutzungshinweise (rolling-stairs-use-tips)

    •  English translation: tips for using the escalator


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Most recent update: March 29, 2022

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