15 Words That Are Way More Interesting Than They Seem
Let’s face it, some words are a lot more interesting than others. But then again, some words are secretly interesting—they might seem straightforward on the surface, but hidden behind them is some remarkable quirk or bizarre piece of trivia that sets them apart. Check out fifteen examples of words that are a lot more interesting than they seem.
At seven letters long, billowy is the longest non-scientific word in the English language to have its letters in alphabetical order. Aegilops, the name of both a type of ophthalmic ulcer and a genus of grass, is one letter longer but much more obscure. Other self-alphabetizing words include accept, almost, chimps, effort, glossy, and knotty. The longest word with its letters in reverse alphabetical order is spoonfeed.
As a verb, cabbage can be used to mean "to swell" or "to contuse," or—in 17th century slang at least—"to embezzle" or "to pilfer supplies." Either meaning gives the past tense form cabbaged, which alongside debagged and baggaged is one of the longest words in the dictionary that can be played on a musical instrument, using the seven musical notes from A to G. Other “musical” words include defaced, gaffe, feedbag, beefed, decade, acceded, and gagged.
CHECKBOOK, provided it is written in upper case letters, is the longest word in the English language with a line of horizontal symmetry. CODEBOOK, COOKBOOK, EXCEEDED and ICEBOX are among the others, while HOITY-TOITY, provided it is written in a column, would be the longest word with a line of vertical symmetry.
In the standard English counting system (so no googols, googolplexes or myriads included), every single number higher than 88 has an N in its name. So put another way, eighty-eight is the highest number spelled without a letter N. Incidentally, you’d have to count all the way to a billion before you’d need to use a letter B; and no matter how high you counted you’d never need a J, a K, or a Z.
Speaking of notable numbers, forty is the only number in the English language to have its letters in alphabetical order. The only number with its letters in reverse alphabetical order? One.
And one final number fact—four has 4 letters, making it the only self-enumerating number in English. Bonus fact: there are no self-enumerating numbers in French.
Like teammate, froufrou, intestines, couscous, horseshoer, and signings, every letter of the word happenchance is used twice, with none left over—so there are precisely two Hs, two As, two Ps, two Es, two Ns and two Cs. This makes it the longest non-scientific dictionary word comprised entirely of repeated letters in English, although the longest overall is probably esophagographers.
Meaning obstinacy or stubbornness, intransigence is the longest English word that becomes a palindrome when spelled in Morse Code: ··–·–·–··– –······– –··–·–·–·· Other Morse palindromes include sopranos, hairballs, bottommost and protectorate, but at 13 letters, intransigence is the longest overall.
Seventy-five percent of the word lull is the same letter. No word in the English language contains a greater proportion of repeated letters, although a handful of others—like loll, faff and sass—equal it.
If all of the words in a standard dictionary were spelled backwards and then re-alphabetized, the last word in the dictionary would become muzz, an old 18th century word for a state of confusion or disorder.
Meaning “multiplications by four,” the word quadruplications contains, among others, the eight letters N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, and U inside it. No English word is spelled used a longer string of consecutive letters.
Rotate the word SWIMS, in all capital letters, 180 degrees, and it will still more or less read SWIMS, making it the longest rotationally symmetrical word in the English language. The word dollop runs one letter longer, but its Ls drop below the line when turned upside down.
Appropriately enough, the 10-letter word typewriter is one of the longest words that can be spelled using just the top row of letters on a qwerty keyboard; some of the others include peppertree, perpetuity, proprietor, repertoire and typewrote. If hyphens are allowed, however, the longest qwerty word is probably teeter-totter.
All 15 letters of the word uncopyrightable are different, making it one of the two longest English words with no repeated letters; the other is dermatoglyphics, the scientific study of fingerprints. There are actually around 35,000 words in total that share this linguistic quirk in common, including troublemaking, ambidextrously, thunderclap, unproblematic, bankruptcies, questionably and unpredictably.
Divide the alphabet into two 13-letter halves, from A-M and from N-Z. Then number all of the letters in each half from 1-13, starting at opposite ends—so A and Z are both 1, B and Y are 2, C and X are 3, and so on. This would make W 4, and D 4. I and R would both be 9. And A and Z would both be 1. What does all that mean? Well, it makes wizard one of the longest symmetrically distributed words in the English language, as its letters would form the numerical pattern 4/9/1/1/9/4. Hovels (8/12/5/5/12/8) and evolve (5/5/12/12/5/5) are two more six-letter examples.