Last revision: Dec. 30, 2019.
No President of the United States has had a last name starting with S, even though it is the most common last name initial in the United States.
SALES is the answer to the first clue (“What bargain hunters enjoy.”) in what is regarded as the world’s first crossword puzzle in the Dec. 21, 1913, edition of the New York World, which called the game a “word-cross puzzle.” [Charles Turner]
Some nine-letter monosyllabic words are CRAUNCHED, SCHLEPPED, SCHLUMPED, SCHMEERED, SCHMOOZED, SCRAICHED, SCRAIGHED, SCRATCHED, SCREECHED, SCROOCHED, SCROUNGED, SCRUNCHED, SKREECHED, SKREIGHED, SPLOTCHED, SQUELCHED, SQUINCHED, SQUOOSHED, STAUNCHED, STRAIGHTS, STRENGTHS, STRETCHED, SCRANCHED, SCRAUGHED, SCRINCHED, SCRITCHED, SPLATCHED, SQUATCHED, SQUENCHED, FRAUNCHED, STRAYNGTH, GRAUNCHED, THRUTCHED, SCHWARMED, and SQUITCHED [Philip Bennett, Stuart Kidd].
In addition, MWCD10 shows a one-syllable pronunciation of SQUIRREL, so presumably the 11-letter SQUIRRELLED could be pronounced as one syllable. Craig Rowland writes, "All dictionaries designate this word to be of two syllables, but frankly I don't know any Canadian who says it as any way but one."
SHANGHAI could be the only verb that is derived from the name of a city. Only one country is a verb: JAPAN (to put a hard, brilliant polish on). Four countries are common nouns: TURKEY, CHINA, GUINEA, and CHAD. Several countries are common first names: INDIA, ISRAEL, JORDAN, CHAD, KENYA, and GEORGIA. Two states are common first names: VIRGINIA and GEORGIA. WASHINGTON is a less common first name, as in Washington Irving. [James A. Landau]
Bob Erndt suggests there ought to be someone who has a raccoon that has a nook that needs cleaning, namely a RACCOONNOOKKEEPER. And from Bo Parker: At a dam, there is a flooddoor. The controls for the flooddoor are in the flooddoorroom. Let's say the the boss at the dam calls a meeting in the flooddoorroom. The people who go to this meeting are FLOODDOORROOMMEETINGGOERS. And James Lehmann suggests: In the flooddoorroom, there is a book, which explains how to use the controls for the flooddoor, a FLOODDOORROOMBOOK, in which all four double-O's are pronounced differently. According to Charles Hess, Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle mentioned FLOODDOORROOMMOONLIGHTERS, RACCOONNOOKKEEPER, and FLOODDOORROOMMASTER.
Paul Wright writes: “If there are such people as balloonneers there could be a room for them, namely a BALLOONNEERROOM with 6 consecutive double-letters and if there was a meeting in said room it would be a BALLOONNEERROOMMEETING with 8 consecutive double letters. Also if subbookkeepers have a room and a meeting it would be a SUBBOOKKEEPERROOMMEETING with two separate sets of four consecutive double letters.”
Dwight Ripley notes that in Finnish such words are almost commonplace. As examples, he cites LAPPEELLAAN (flat), LIIKKEESSÄ (in motion; in a shop), and PUUTTEELLINEN (defective). Paul Wright adds a Finnish word with 5 consecutive double letters: LIIKKEESSÄÄN (showroom).
The Dutch word VOORRAADDOOSSPULLEN (things you keep in a supply box) has seven double letters, of which six are consecutive [Stuart Kidd].
HUBBUBBUBBOO (a confused crying or yelling, OED) is the shortest word with four pairs sets of double letters, although the OED also shows PEEKEENEENEE as an English phonetic spelling in a citation for the word PICCANINNY [Stuart Kidd, Philip Bennett].
The shortest words with three double letters are KEELLESS, ASSESSEE, ALLOTTEE, APPELLEE, CALLALLOO, FEELLESS, HEELLESS, KEENNESS, SOONNESS, TOOLLESS, UBBUBBOO and FEEOFFEE. EELLESS has been suggested but does not seem to be in any dictionary [Pierre Abbat, Stuart Kidd, Philip Bennett].
MAMMOOTTY, a leading movie artiste of Malayalam Films of India, has 3 consecutive double letters. [Yarlagadda Police]
According to Philip Bennett, the only words in the OED2 with three sets of consecutive double letters are BOOK-KEEPER, DEER-REEVE, FEED-DOOR, GOOD-DEED, HEEL-LOOP, HOOF-FOOTED, HOOT-TOOT, KEEK-KEEK, SOONNEE, TOOT-TOOT, VENEER-ROOM, and WOOD-DEER.
COOEE is the shortest word with two double letters [Pierre Abbat].
AA (a type of lava) and OO (a Hawaiian bird or a variant of OOH) are the shortest words with one double letter [Pierre Abbat, Mark Brader].
GOOD DEED DOTTY, the name of an old comic strip, has four double letters in a row [Peter Gordon].
Emerson points out that SAUNA is spelled the same way in nine languages: Finnish, English, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, French, German, Dutch, and Danish. Readers of this page have reported it is also spelled the same way in Lithuanian, Serbo-Croatian, Romanian, and Norwegian (although in Norwegian the word badstue is more commonly used). In Swedish, bastu, a short form of badstuga meaning (approximately) "bathing-hut," is more commonly used. [Juozas Rimas, Nikola Petrovic, Gabriel Ionita, Thor-Rune Fiskum, Andreas Engström].
Phil Smith writes, "Regarding the fact that 'sauna' is spelt the same in nine languages, in Japanese the word uses the katakana characters (used for words that have come into the language from other countries) and is spelt 'sa-u-na' too. This is unusual for katakana words, as they rarely match the original spelling, such as 'kamera', 'pasokon' (personal computer), 'apaato' (apartment) and 'sabiro' (suit, originating from the road name Savile Row in London, where tailors used to work)."
Dan Tilque has found that VETO is the same in at least 24 languages: Albanian, Azerbaijani, Catalan, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, SerboCroatian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish. In Hungarian it is spelled the same except for a diacritic. In Basque and Tagalog it's spelled 'beto' and in Polish it's 'weto'.
In a paper published in 2013 in the journal PLOS One, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics announced that they had found strikingly similar versions of HUH? in languages scattered across five continents, suggesting that it is a universal word. [Charles Turner]
The Indian cities TIRUCHCHITTRAMBALAM and TIRUCHCHIRAPPALLI both have the -chch- sequence, which this page previously described as "rare." However, many other words with -chch- have been reported, as follows: ARCHCHRONICLER, MLECHCHHA (W3, a person in India who does not practise Hinduism), ARCHCHAMBERLAIN, ARCHCHANCELLOR, ARCHCHANTER, ARCHCHEMIC, KACHCHAN, CHUCHCHI (a rare mushroom Morchella conica), BOCHCHARE, BUCHCH, RACHCH, SLUCHCHED, ENTACHCH, GROCHCHE, GRYCHCHE, KUCHCHA, PATCHCHE, RECHCHE, RUCHCHE, TECHCHE, ACHCHA (a S. Asian expression meaning "is that so"), and VECHCHE [Juozas Rimas, Stuart Kidd, Philip Bennett, Paul Wright].
Placenames with no repeating letters include BRICKLEHAMPTON (Britain), GUMPOLDSKIRCHEN (Austria), MALITZSCHKENDORF (Germany), BRIDGEHAMPTON (NY), MADRITSCHENGUPF (Austria), STRICHWANDKOGEL (Austria), MORICHELYPUSZTA (Hungary), FJORDHUNGZKVISL (Iceland), HONDEBLAFSPRUIT (South Africa), DJUPBACKSHOLMEN (Sweden), HOGLYCKSFJARDEN (Sweden), and SOUTH CAMBRIDGE (NY). Some of the long place names are from Word Ways or were contributed by Stuart Kidd.
Stuart Kidd says that MELVIN SCHWARTZKOPF of Illinois and DEBORAH GLUPCZYNSKI, a doctor in Massachusetts, have the longest names with no letter repeated. Andrew Davis reports that he lives in BUCKFASTLEIGH (in Devon, England), which has 13 letters and no letter repeating. JOHN TYLER is the only full name of a president of the United States which has no letter repeating.
In 2019 Pertti Malo reported that he made up a Finnish word with 21 different letters (from a-z plus ä and ö): dhowklubicafevärjötys (in a dhow boat club cafe shivering with cold).
These word have 27 letters: ANTITRANSUBSTANTIATIONALIST, CARBOANGIOCARDIOGRAPHICALLY, CHROMOPHOTOLITHOGRAPHICALLY, CONJUNCTIVODACRYOCYSTOSTOMY, HYDRODAKTULPSYCHICHARMONICA, MACRONORMOCHROMOBLASTICALLY, PHOTOCHROMOLITHOGRAPHICALLY..
These words have 25 letters: UVULOPALATOPHARYNGOPLASTY, BALLISTOCARDIOGRAPHICALLY, CROTAPHYTICOBUCCINATORIUS, MYXOCHONDROFIBROSARCOMATA, OCCIPITOROSCIPITOSCAPULAR, PHILOSOPHICOPSYCHOLOGICAL.
These words have 24 letters: ALDIBORONTIPHOSCOPHORNIO, HYPOTHALAMICOHYPOPHYSIAL, MYXOCHONDROFIBROSARCOMAS, PATHOLOGICOPSYCHOLOGICAL, RADIOCHROMATOGRAPHICALLY.
These words have 23 leters: ANTHROPOMORPHOLOGICALLY, CARBOANGIOCARDIOGRAPHIC, CHROMOPHOTOLITHOGRAPHIC, GYNOTIKOLOBOMASSOPHILIA, HYDROCHLOROFLUOROCARBON, MACRONORMOCHROMOBLASTIC, MYXOCHONDROFIBROSARCOMA, PATHOLOGICOHISTOLOGICAL, PHOTOCHROMOLITHOGRAPHIC, TRANSUBSTANTIATIONALIST.
These words have 22 letters: HUMUHUMUNUKUNUKUAPUAAS, PHONOCARDIOGRAPHICALLY, PRORHIPIDOGLOSSOMORPHA, SUPRADIAPHRAGMATICALLY, MACRACANTHORHYNCHIASIS, ANATOMICOPHYSIOLOGICAL, BALLISTOCARDIOGRAPHICS, CHROMOPHOTOLITHOGRAPHY, CONSTITUTIONALIZATIONS, DACRYOCYSTOSYRINGOTOMY, HISTORICOCABBALISTICAL, HISTORICOPHILOSOPHICAL, HONORIFICABILITUDINITY, HYPOGRANULOCYTOTICALLY, HYPOTHALAMOHYPOPHYSIAL, INFRADIAPHRAGMATICALLY, OTORHINOLARYNGOLOGICAL, OTORHINOLARYNGOLOGISTS, PARAAMINOSALICYLICACID, PHILOSOPHICOHISTORICAL, PHOTOCHROMOLITHOGRAPHY, PHOTOCHRONOGRAPHICALLY, STAPHYLOCOCCOLYTICALLY, TACHYCARDIABRADYCARDIA, ULTRANATIONALISTICALLY. [Paul Wright]
WACO and WARE are the only U. S. radio station call letters that exactly spelled the cities in which they were located (Waco, Texas, and Ware, Massachusetts). WISE-FM is in Wise, Virginia. KING FM and TV station is in King County, Washington, and KERN is located in Kern County, California. WHT in Deerfield, Illinois, WGHF in New York, and WFMJ in Youngstown, Ohio, were apparently the only radio call letters that exactly matched the owners’ initials (Chicago Mayor William Hale Thompson, William G. H. Finch, and William F. Maag, Jr.). Television station WRGB in Schenectady was named for GE executive Walter R. G. Baker.
In all of Shakespeare's plays and poetry, excluding Roman numerals, only one word begins with X. The word is XANTHIPPE (the wife of Socrates). It is found in The Taming of the Shrew [Nelson H. F. Beebe].
The shortest word in English pronounced with three syllables is W [Charles Turner].
The letter Z is pronounced ZED in most of the English-speaking world, but is pronounced ZEE in the United States. The first known instance of “zee” being recorded as the correct pronunciation of the letter “z” was in Lye’s New Spelling Book, published in 1677. There still was a variety of common pronunciations in North America after this; but by the 19th century, this changed in the United States with “zee” firmly establishing itself thanks to Daniel Webster putting his seal of approval on it in 1827, and, of course, the Alphabet song copyrighted in 1835, rhyming “z” with “me.” [From this web page; thanks Charles Turner.]