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I was driving past the village of Hampsthwaite the other day, and happened to spot the six consecutive consonants in the middle. It set me wondering whether this was the most possible, and if not, which word contains the maximum number?

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One could argue (mostly unsuccessfully) that 'syzygy' is nothing but consonants. –  oosterwal Mar 16 '11 at 21:43
Many of these words do not actually have that many sonsonant phonemes in a row. th is only one sound, so hampsthwaite only has five consonants in a row. Catchphrase only has four consonant phonemes in a row, and so on. –  Peter Olson Jul 9 '11 at 20:14
It’s kind of stretching things to call “w” a consonant there. After all, “way” is a triphthong. –  tchrist May 16 '12 at 0:29
@PeterOlson Catchphrase has only three consonant phonemes in a row: /tʃ/, /f/, and /r/. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 7 at 11:54

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Archchronicler, catchphrase, eschscholtzia, latchstring, lengthsman, and postphthisic each have six consonants in a row.

HIRSCHSPRUNG'S (DISEASE) has seven consecutive consonants, as does SCHTSCHUROWSKIA. The shortest such word is TSKTSKS. All of these words can be found in major English dictionaries.

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Why did you fully capitalize the words in the second paragraph? –  MrHen Mar 16 '11 at 19:12

Foreign proper names are probably your safest bet. I always liked Chruschtschov though Khrushchev is the more common transliteration. Wikipedia has a dedicated section that lists a few more:

Twelfthstreet (normally two words but sometimes written as one, as in a song title; Eighthstreet is feasible by analogy), and Hirschsprung, as in Hirschsprung's disease (though this is after a Danish surname). The scientific name of the white (or Tubergen) squill is Scilla mischtschenkoana, and the transliterations of several Russian names, such as Tischtschenko, contain the same constellation of seven consonants.

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Side note: the physician in question was Danish, but the name Hirschsprung itself is German. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 7 at 11:53

Sorry if this is a tad off-center, but the longest sequence of typographic (as opposed to phonologic) consonants in a single syllable may be five, in the words strengths and lengths. (Strengths may be the one-syllable word with the largest number of [spelled] consonants: 8.)

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BTW, strengths and lengths might also be among the words with the longest sequence of phonologic consonants: 4. Specifically, eng, k, th, s –  H Stephen Straight May 15 '12 at 23:59
Twelfths also ends in four consonant sounds: l, f, th, s. So does sixths: k, s, th, s. –  tchrist Jan 3 '13 at 10:04
@HStephenStraight Strengths and lengths do not have four consecutive phonemic consonants, though—at least to me, they are /strεŋθz/ and /lεŋθz/, with no /k/ in either. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 7 at 11:51
@JanusBahsJacquet Phonemic consonants, maybe not (if [ŋ] is not phonemically /ng/), but phonetic consonants, definitely yes, in every pronunciation of these words I have ever heard that contains [ŋ] (as opposed to [n]). –  H Stephen Straight Jul 8 at 22:15
If we’re talking narrow phonetics, then probably five: [sʈɻʷε͜ẽŋɡ̊d̥͡θs] (unless you consider affricates like [d̥͡θ] to be only one consonant phonetically, which I wouldn’t). But at least when I say the words, the release of the [ŋ] is no more perceptible or salient than the pre-fricative stage of the intradental articulation, if it’s there at all, which it isn’t always (the [ŋ] is sometimes more like [ɰ̃] with no closure). Neither is audible or prominent to warrant being included in any but quite narrow phonetic transcription. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 8 at 22:56

protected by simchona Jan 3 '13 at 9:18

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