A Collection of Word Oddities and Trivia, Page 12

Last revision: May 15, 2011


Photo courtesy of Rob Ainsley

LLANFAIRPWLLGWYNGYLLGOGERYCHWYRNDROBWLLLLANTYSILIOGOGOGOCH is according to one source the longest placename in the world, with 58 letters. It is a town in North Wales meaning "St. Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the rapid whirlpool of Llantysilio of the red cave" or "St. Mary’s (Church) by the white aspen over the whirlpool, and St. Tysilio’s (Church) by the red cave" in Welsh.

Rob Ainsley, a reader of this page, writes:

Further to the 'Word Oddities' entry on the small town in Wales with the long name: the 'real', and official, name of the place is Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, which is how it appears on maps and road signs. It’s also referred to as Llanfair PG, which is how I've seen letters addressed.

The 19th-century extension of the name is certainly not in anything like common use, except by tedious English people like me showing off.

However, what Llanfair PG does have over other long place-names is that there is a town, in which several shops and the railway station proudly display the complete long version of the name. (This is contrast to Taumata... in New Zealand, which is a hill with no houses or settlements on it.)

My favourite example of a mammoth shop sign is that above the Volvo concessionaires in the town. Car showrooms are do not readily put lexical celebration above commercial realities, but the standard white-on-blue lettering meticulously spells out Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. I don't know about their letterheads.

There’s a joke elsewhere on the web about two people who stop for lunch and argue about the pronunciation. One asks the lady behind the counter, "Can you say, very slowly, the name of the place we're in?", to which the young lady replies "Burrr, gerrr, kinggg". Sadly - no, fortunately - Llanfair PG is too small to have a Burger King, McDonald’s or any other fast-food chain.

The bit of the name most people enjoy is the motoric absurdity of the ending '....go-go-goch'. I'm not a Welsh speaker, but I believe it comes about as follows. The ending comes from 'red cave'. This would be 'ogof goch' , but F seems a weak sound in Welsh and it is swallowed by the following G. The preceding 'Church of St Tysilio' is 'llan tysilio', and because the following phrase begins with the O of 'ogo(f)', a G is inserted to aid pronunciation.

Any cyclists out there may be interested to know that Llanfair PG is on the Welsh National Cycle Route, Sustrans’s long-distance cycle route from Cardiff in the south to Holyhead in the north. Taking about a week to do, the route takes you through some wonderful scenery, some grim industrial wastes, some delightful little towns, and this extravagantly named little town.

Apart from photographing the extended name-plates there’s little to do in Llanfair PG, though the historic Menai suspension Bridge a couple of miles back is worth seeing.

Mark Brader writes, "It occurs to me that this may be the longest word to have ever been spoken in a movie. In the 1968 SF/comedy film Barbarella, there is a joke where one character says, as rapidly as possible, 'The password will be Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch' and the character he’s talking to repeats it back correctly to him at the same speed."

A website at http://llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.co.uk/ has more information and claims the village is the longest name in Britain. It also states:

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.co.uk is often referred to as the longest valid domain name, even though it does not quite have the full 63 characters allowed. The actual undisputed longest valid domain name registered in the world also points to this website, and is:


This has 70 characters (including the org.uk) and is the upper (old) part of the village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, more usually locally called "pentre uchaf". The ending "uchaf" is the welsh for "higher" or "upper", so pentre uchaf means "upper village".

A YouTube video is here.

Dale Williams of New Zealand says that the Welsh placename is a nineteenth-century fabrication, adopted to look good on their railway place boards, whereas a Maori name for a hill in New Zealand is genuine and was in general use. It has 85 letters: TAUMATAWHAKATANGIHANGAKOAUAUOTAMATEATURIPUKAKAPIKI- MAUNGAHORONUKUPOKAIWHENUAKITANATAHU. Williams says, "If we want to go there now we call it Taumata." New Zealand broadcaster Henare Te Ua says the word celebrates the prowess of a great Maori chief who possessed enormous personal power. Chief Tamatea was so mighty and powerful that, metaphorically, he could even eat mountains. There was a gentle side to his personality too. He could play his nose flute beautifully and quite charmingly to his loved ones. The word, Henare said, means "The summit of the hill, where Tamatea, who is known as the land eater, slid down, climbed up and swallowed mountains, played on his nose flute to his loved one." The hill, about 1000 feet in height, is in Southern Hawke’s Bay, a district on the eastern side of the north island. [Neil Carleton] [Note: The spelling of this word was corrected on July 4, 2000. Prior to that date, the "o" preceding "tamatea" was missing. Thanks to Robert Love for pointing out this error. The word as spelled above now has 85 letters and agrees with the spelling in the 1992 Guinness Book of Records.]

There is a 66-letter place name in Wales, according to Dr. David Crystal’s Encyclopedia of Language: GORSAFAWDDACHAIDRAIGODANHEDDOGLEDDOLONPENRHYNAREURDRAETHCEREDIGION, meaning "the Mawddach station and its dragon teeth at the Northern Penrhyn Road on the golden beach of Cardigan bay."

According to The Book of Names by J. N. Hook, the longest place name in the U. S. may be NUNATHLOOGAGAMIUTBINGOI, the name of some dunes in Alaska, taken from Eskimo.

Photo by Robert Spencer, courtesy of the New York Times, which reported in 2004
that this sign misspells its lake, having an O for one U and an H for one N.

In Massachusetts, there is Lake CHARGOGAGOGMANCHARGOGAGOGCHARBUNAGUNGAMOG, usually listed on maps as "Lake Webster." It supposedly means "You fish on your side, I'll fish on my side, nobody fish in the middle."



However, another reader of this page writes:

I live in Dudley, MA, just west of Webster, MA. and I can verify that the lake is spelled Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchabunagungamaugg by the locals. Also, it doesn't supposedly mean anything. Nobody knows what it means. the 'i fish on my side....' or 'Neutral fishing ground' are just common guesses. From what I've learned, people that have attempted translations learned that it has nothing to do with fishing at all, but the 'neutral borders' might be a closer translation, as it’s at the boundary of where a few Indian tribes once lived.

In 2009 the board of directors of the Webster-Dudley-Oxford Chamber of Commerce unanimously agreed to correct the spelling problems on the signs on Route 12 near Oxford and Route 193 near Thompson. The Worcester Telegram and Gazette reported, “The 45-letter name is misspelled, with an o where a u should be, at letter 20, and an h instead of n at letter 38. The chamber is researching its records to find out who painted the signs. The signs will either go back to that company or another will handle the correction, according to Eleanor F. Houbre, director of chamber services. Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg is the most widely accepted spelling of the name of the the 3-mile long, 1-milewide lake.” [Charles Turner]

For a week in July 2004 as a protest against wind turbines, the village of Llanfynydd in Carmarthenshire, Wales, changed its name to LLANHYFRYDDAWELLLEHYNAFOLYBARCUDPRINDANFYGYTHIADTRIENUSYRHAFNAUOLE (66 letters), meaning “a quiet beautiful village, an historic place with rare kite under threat from wretched blades.” [Paul Wright]

The longest hyphenated placename in the United States appearing in the Geographic Names Information System is WINCHESTER-ON-THE-SEVERN (21 letters, in Maryland). The longest unhyphenated place names are MOOSELOOKMEGUNTIC (17 letters, in Maine), KLEINFELTERSVILLE (17 letters, in Pennsylvania), and WAUGULLEWUTLEKAUH (17 letters, in California). The latter is labeled historical and is probably the name of an Indian village that disappeared long ago. Some long place names in the GNIS which include spaces are: Little Harbor on the Hillsboro, FL; Pops Hammock Seminole Village, FL; Friendly Village of Crooked Creek, GA; Little Diamond Island Landing, ME; Orchard Point At Piney Orchard, MD; Point Field Landing on the Severn, MD; Riverside Village of Church Creek, MD; Monmouth Heights at Manalapan, NJ; Staffordville Public Landing, NJ; Holly View Forest-Highland Park, NC; The Landing at Plantation Point, SC; Big Thicket Creekmore Village, TX; Kinney and Gourlays Improved City Plat, UT; Little Cottonwood Creek Valley, UT; and West Virginia Central Junction, WV [Dan Tilque].

According to The Texas Almanac, DALWORTHINGTON GARDENS is the longest place name in Texas. (Dalworthington Gardens is an island city surrounded by Arlington. The name is derived from its proximity to Dallas and Ft. Worth) [Charles Turner].

Dan Tilque writes, "The longest placename I've ever found on a map is INDUSTRIAL CITY OF GORDON, MURRAY AND WHITFIELD COS (43 letters, in Georgia) which was on the Rand McNally Road Atlas of 1985. Expanding the abbreviation to COUNTIES makes it 48 letters long. Unfortunately, this name is now shortened to just Industrial City."

The longest place names in Canada appear to be PEKWACHNAMAYKOSKWASKWAYPINWANIK LAKE in Manitoba (31 letters, not counting "lake") and ILE KUCHISTINIWAMISKAHIKAN in Quebec [Charles Turner].

The longest official geographical name in Australia is MAMUNGKUKUMPURANGKUNTJUNYA Hill. It is a Pitjantjatjara word meaning “where the Devil urinates” [Charles Turner].

Philip Bennett says the longest Gaelic place name (hyphenated) he knows of is MONADHCHAL-TUATHAIREACH (22 letters).

The longest place-name in the world is the full name for Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand: KRUNGTHEP MAHANAKHON BOVORN RATANAKOSIN MAHINTHARAYUTTHAYA MAHADILOKPOP NOPARATRATCHATHANI BURIROM UDOMRATCHANIVETMAHASATHAN AMORNPIMAN AVATARNS ATHIT SAKKATHATTIYAVISNUKARMPRASIT, meaning "The land of angels, the great city (of) immortality, various of devine gems, the great angelic land unconquerable, land of nine noble gems, the royal city, the pleasant capital, place of the grand royal palace, forever land of angels and reincarnated spirits, predestined and created by the highest Deva(s)." [Stuart Kidd; name taken from Guinness Book of Records, the meaning taken from http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/Flats/1233/bkk.htm]

EL PUEBLO DE NUESTRA SENORA LA REINA DE LOS ANGELES DE PORCIUNCULA. The name Los Angeles is Spanish for The Angels. There is much more to this name, however. On Wednesday, August 2, 1769, Father Juan Crespi, a Franciscan priest accompanying the first European land expedition through California, led by Captain Fernando Rivera Y Moncado, described in his journal a "beautiful river from the northwest" located at "34 degrees 10 minutes." They named the river Nuestra Señora de los Angeles de la Porciúncula. In the Franciscan calendar, August 2 was the day of the celebration of the feast of the Perdono at the tiny Assisi chapel of St. Francis of Assisi. Early in St. Francis' life, the Benedictines had given him this tiny chapel for his use near Assisi. The chapel, ruined and in need of repair, was located on what the Italians called a porziuncola or "very small parcel of land." Painted on the wall behind the altar was a fresco of the Virgin Mary surrounded by angels. Now contained within a Basilica, the chapel was named Saint Mary of the Angels at the Little Portion. The newly discovered "beautiful river" was named in honor of this celebration and this chapel. In 1781, a new settlement was established along that river. The settlement came to be known as El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciúncula or The Town of Our Lady the Queen of Angels of the Little Portion although its official name was simply El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles [from http://www.losangelesalmanac.com/topics/History/hi03a.htm] The full name of Los Angeles, El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciúncula, can be abbreviated to 3.63% of its size: L.A. [Stuart Kidd].

The shortest placenames in the U. S. may be L (a lake in Nebraska) and T (a gulch in Colorado), each named for its shape, and D (a river in Oregon flowing from Devil’s Lake to the Ocean near Lincoln City). According to Stuart Kidd, Y is a city in Arkansas and E is a river in Perthshire, Scotland. According to Howard Lewis, the D River is the shortest river in the world. There are villages called Å in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, a Y in France, and U in the Pacific Caroline Islands. The only one-letter placename in the index of the Rand McNally International Atlas is A, a peak in Hong Kong (although the Atlas shows political units named with Roman numerals).

MAINE is the only name of a state of the United States consisting of only one syllable.

The country’s smallest state has the longest official name: STATE OF RHODE ISLAND AND PROVIDENCE PLANTATIONS. In 2009 lawmakers in the state House voted 70-3 to let residents decide whether the official name should be changed to STATE OF RHODE ISLAND. On Nov. 2, 2010, the referendum was soundly defeated with 78 percent of the vote against the name change. [Charles Turner]

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