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One of my friends argues that princessship is the only word which has 3 identical letter together ("s") ,but I think there is no word such as princessship. Can anyone tell me whether this is a real word, and if there are any English words which have 3 letters that are the same consecutively?

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@waiwai933 Thanks for editing –  diEcho Mar 10 '11 at 7:43
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Just FYI, in German there are actually quite a few of words with three consecutive identical letters. Not loads, but enough. –  Konrad Rudolph Mar 10 '11 at 17:08
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@KonradRudolph: In Russian, there are two words which have three consecutive letters e (all pronounced [ye]) –  Armen Ծիրունյան Mar 14 '12 at 22:57
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5 Answers 5

up vote 25 down vote accepted

There is no word with three consecutive letters under the most narrow definition of "real word", but there are several words of the following types:

  1. There are many acronyms/initialisms that contain triple letters, like AAA, AIEEE, KKK, WWW, or Roman numerals like xviii.

  2. There are place names, like

    • Kaaawa, a place in Hawaii.
    • Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, a place in Wales.
  3. There are names of people with all sorts of unconventional spellings, like Minnnie, Annnora, or Diannne.

  4. There are interjections like mmm, hmmm, zzz, etc.

  5. There are archaic/poetic words with elided letters, like whenceeer (really, whencee'er from whenceever), wheree'er, etc.

  6. Finally, there are words which would probably be written with a hyphen whenever used, like frillless (mentioned by Dusty) which is really frill-less, similarly bulllike, gulllike, wallless, many words ending in -ss-ship like your princessship, bossship, goddessship, headmistressship, patronessship.

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I'm not a native speaker, but I'm under the impression that words with the same letter repeated three times are either elided so that they contain two, or are spelled with a hyphen.

For instance cross-section (hyphenated) or chaffinch (where the 3rd 'f' is omitted)

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+1 for thinking of chaffinch. No-one else has mentioned ellipses like this. –  Nathan MacInnes Mar 10 '11 at 10:48
    
+1 I typically see such words drop a letter (as crossection, although that word I've never seen conjoined, only as two words) –  CodexArcanum Mar 10 '11 at 21:02
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Along the same lines, free + -estfreest. –  Jason Orendorff Apr 12 '11 at 14:49
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See + -er = seer –  Daniel Mar 14 '12 at 22:22
    
As ShreevatsaR mentions, you get cases where a word ending with a double letter has a suffix beginning with the same terminating letter. They're often spelled with a hyphen (or just avoided). But not absolutely always. So e.g. some people would write "gillless", even though "gill-less" arguably looks clearer. The thing is that these are really corner cases. –  Neil Coffey Sep 4 '12 at 2:43
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I believe princessship is typically spelled with a hyphen princess-ship, although I do remember references to it without. However, if your friend is willing to allow princessship as a word, certainly words like dutchessship, governessship, countessship, etc. would also qualify.

So one way or another, you can prove your friend wrong =D

Edit: A quick search also brings up frillless which has an entry in OED

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Thanks. is there any valid english word which have 3 letters continously? –  diEcho Mar 10 '11 at 7:03
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Discounting acronyms, for words without hyphens that have three consecutive letters, the OED lists these:

brrr, countessship, duchessship, frillless, governessship, grrr, grrrl, hostessship, postmistressship

For words that have a letter, a hyphen, then that same letter twice repeated, it lists these:

eve-eel, paste-eel, salpingo-oöphorectomy, salpingo-oöphoritis, slime-eel, snipe-eel, spine-eel

For words where you have the same letter twice, then the hyphen, then that same letter again, it has all these:

ass-ship, ball-less, ball-lightning, ball-like, bee-eater, bell-less, boss-ship, boss-shot, boss-stone, brass-smith, burgess-ship, call-letter, call-loan, carcass-shell, cell-layer, cell-less, cell-like, cell-lineage, cell-lined, chaff-flower, class-subject, compass-saw, compass-signal, compass-stock, cross-saddle, cross-sea, cross-section, cross-sectional, cross-sectioning, cross-seizing, cross-sell, cross-shed, cross-shoot, cross-shot, cross-sleeper, cross-spall, cross-spider, cross-springer, cross-staff, cross-stitch, cross-stone, cross-street, cuckoo-orchis, cypress-spurge, demigoddess-ship, distress-sale, doll-land, dress-shield, egg-glass, fall-leaf, fall-less, fee-estate, fee-expectant, frill-lizard, fusee-engine, gall-leaf, gall-less, gill-lamella, gill-less, gill-lid, glass-sand, glass-shaped, glass-shell, glass-shrimp, glass-slag, glass-snail, glass-snake, glass-soap, glass-sponge, goddess-ship, grass-seeder, grass-siding, grass-snake, grass-snipe, grass-sparrow, grass-spirit, grass-sponge, grass-spring, head-mistress-ship, ill-less, ill-lived, ill-looking, ill-lookingness, isinglass-stone, Jaycee-ette, joss-stick, kill-lamb, kiss-sky, knee-elbow position, mastiff-fox, mill-lands, mill-leat, mill-lodge, miss-stays, mistress-ship, moss-seat, moss-starch, no-see-em, off-faller, off-falling, off-farm, off-field, pass-shooting, patroness-ship, poss-stick, press-shy, press-stone, press-stud, princess-ship, process-server, puff-fish, quill-less, seamstress-ship, see-er, see-everything, shell-less, shell-lettuce, shell-lime, skull-less, small-leaved, smell-less, stall-literature, still-liquor, stress-strain, three-edged, three-eight, till-land, toll-lodge, troll-line, wall-less, wall-lining, wall-lizard, well-laboured, well-labouring, well-laced, well-laden, well-laid, well-languaged, well-learned, well-leaved, well-led, well-legged, well-lettered, well-lighted, well-liked, well-liking, well-limbed, well-limned, well-lined, well-lit, well-liveried, well-living, well-loaded, well-lodged, well-looked, well-looking, well-loved, well-lunged, will-less, will-lessly, witness-stand, zoo-organic

Alas, there appear to be no instances of four letters in a row, even if separated by a hyphen or an apostrophe, such as *Kwanzaa-aardvark, *frisbee-eel, *tatoo-ooze, *install-llama, or *chimpanzee-eerie.

I see a product opportunity here. :)

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+1 very Informative –  diEcho Sep 10 '12 at 16:06
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With bulllike determination, I looked at the scowl word list, and found 49 words meeting this criterion. I realize many of these probably aren't words at all and others are proper names, Roman numerals, or abbreviations, but scowl lists these as true words:

+------------------+
| aaa              | 
| addda            | 
| apppetible       | 
| asssembler       | 
| baccillla        | 
| betweeenbrain    | 
| bimilllennia     | 
| blottto          | 
| bonnne           | 
| bonnnes          | 
| bossship         | 
| brrr             | 
| bulllike         | 
| demigoddessship  | 
| dipppier         | 
| dipppiest        | 
| dipppy           | 
| earlesss         | 
| goddessship      | 
| goddessship's    | 
| gulllike         | 
| headmistressship | 
| ieee             | 
| iii              | 
| kkk              | 
| lettterbox       | 
| lettterboxes     | 
| lxxx             | 
| mmmm             | 
| oooo             | 
| outttore         | 
| outttorn         | 
| passsaging       | 
| pasticcci        | 
| patronessship    | 
| syllabusss       | 
| unreeel          | 
| viii             | 
| wallless         | 
| whenceeer        | 
| www              | 
| xiii             | 
| xviii            | 
| xxiii            | 
| xxviii           | 
| xxx              | 
| zipppier         | 
| zipppiest        | 
| zzz              | 
+------------------+
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Yeah, I also looked at the scowl list in making my answer. :-) The problem is that most of the words in the list are simply mistakes (see this Debian bug report), so 'asssembler' is a misspelling of 'assembler', 'lettterbox' of 'letterbox', and so on through most words in the list. –  ShreevatsaR Mar 10 '11 at 17:52
    
I think the best word in the list is brrr. It even has an entry in the OED. –  GEdgar Sep 4 '12 at 14:20
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