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I was writing my history essay earlier today on the effects of the First World War and in my conclusion I was comparing the four causes I had discussed in the essay.

I then was half-way through my sentence when I struggled to think of the superlative of long-term.

Both

the longest-term cause was...

and

the most long-term cause was...

struck me as viable options, however neither sounded correct to me at the time. I also thought ofgreatest and most chronic afterwards, although by then it was too late. Greatest also perhaps connotes importance, which is undesirable in the context.

In the end I rephrased my sentence to escape the predicament and although I cannot remember what I wrote instead I believe it was less effective than a sentence with the superlative of long-term.

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    you can talk about proximate vs. ultimate causes, and then try to specify the time scale you are talking about. e.g., the ultimate cause on a time frame of generations.... – user31341 Feb 7 '14 at 17:43
  • eternal, on-going, indefinite, perpetual... – Sam Feb 8 '14 at 8:31
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Perhaps most enduring or most persistent might work.

It depends on whether you are trying to convey most remote in time but significant or having an effect for the longest period. The two examples here reflect the latter.

  • Thanks. Those examples would be perfect. Just a shame that I couldn't have written those at the time! – Luke Ashford Feb 7 '14 at 17:46
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"longest long-term"

I see that it is used in significant resources as well.

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'long-term' is an indefinite measure. If you need to compare several 'long-term' problems, it is better to just define the actual time units and drop 'long-term' enirely.

I do have a small affection for 'long-termiest' though.

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Though it is not a frequent expression, I see nothing wrong with 'the longest-term' causes.

However if I were discussing the complex matter of the origins of the First World War, I think I would speak of the 'longest-term causes' as either the 'profound' or the 'deep-rooted'. e.g. The effects of a century of post-Napoleonic stress, aggravated by the inherent instability of burgeoning nationalism in a Europe of nation states. And this in the context of finite world resources, with no international secretariat such as the UN to resolve disputes'

Then there would be the 'immediate causes', the assassination of the Archduke etc. . The degrees in between, e.g. the German insistence on building a navy, could be a combination of 'less immediate', 'less profound' etc.

  • I think you need to be careful, because the cause that has been around the longest might not be the most important ones. For instance, the age old rivalry between the denizens of Germania and Gaul from the time of Caesar and earlier is old, if not a major contributor. – Oldcat Feb 11 '14 at 1:15
  • @Oldcat To say nothing of Teuton and Slav. And Slavic nationalism is indeed high up in the causes. But if you want a word on which all others rest it is 'instability', which continued between the wars. It is only after 1945 with a division between two blocs that stability is achieved. – WS2 Feb 11 '14 at 15:36

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