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I was looking at this question about the word albeit and it got me thinking... what is the most compound, non-hyphenated, real word in English? Strictly speaking, albeit might not be counted as a compound word because all dropped a letter, however there are other example - for instance nonetheless. Is three sub-words the limit, or can someone think of a compound word that has more sub-words?

(Note, I excluded hyphenated compound words because you can make whole sentences into words if you go that route.)

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  • Written any good Dream Songs lately?
    – Robusto
    Mar 26, 2011 at 21:17
  • @Robusto - Although I'm not much of a fan myself, he does keep me relatively anonymous on the internet. Mar 28, 2011 at 4:50
  • Unlike German, where it's almost expected that you create new compound nouns on-the-fly, English tends to keep words separated. There are, of course, many two-word exceptions, like fireman, backwater, counterpart, etc. Three-word compounds, as you have pointed out, are rare, and I doubt that there are more than one or two examples of compounds created from four or more individual words (chemical and other scientific terms excluded.) I'll keep thinking and looking though.
    – oosterwal
    Mar 28, 2011 at 14:04
  • more: another, worthwhile, thereafter, notwithstanding, {some|any}{where|how|time|one|thing}, {who|when|how}ever, therefore Apr 4, 2011 at 19:46
  • Elsewhere, elsewhither.
    – tchrist
    May 2, 2012 at 2:17

5 Answers 5

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From Which is correct: "So far as I know" or "As far as I know"?, I offer: Insofar.


Edit - This question has been puzzling me for a while. I feel like there should be an English word that is itself made up from two compound words, but I cannot think what it might be.

In the mean time, here are some more offerings of words that are made up of three or more sub-words that are considered standard English or have entered the common vernacular (all words pass the stackexchange spellchecker):

  • Whatchamacallit (What-you-may-call-it)
  • Thingamajig
  • Thingamabob
  • Plainclothesman
  • Nevertheless
  • Notwithstanding
  • Theretofore
  • Newspaperman
  • Whatsoever, Whosoever, Wheresoever, Howsoever
  • Insomuch (to go with 'insofar', mentioned above)
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  • love it! :D - the biggest one I see is the first one - 5 words. Mar 28, 2011 at 21:29
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Handcraftsmanship

(if you're ok with suffixes like this)

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  • 1
    I feel like that's technically in violation of the spirit of the question somehow, but it's very clever regardless.
    – Hellion
    Mar 28, 2011 at 6:00
  • Except for the ending '-ship', I think the other three words do fit the spirit of the question.
    – oosterwal
    Mar 28, 2011 at 13:56
  • @Callithumpian et al. It's interesting that the ones discussed as being outside of the spirit of the question were in the spirit of the question if you go back far enough in time. We think of craftsman as being one word these days... but ceuturies ago it was two words. We think of 'incorrect' as being 1 word but the latin roots are two words, (maybe not best example). Mar 28, 2011 at 21:27
  • 'none' - was that at one point in history a compound of 'no one' or 'not one'? Mar 29, 2011 at 0:36
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    @John: none comes from nan, a compound of ne "not" and an "one". Incorrect, on the other hand, has always been one word, and even in Latin in- and com- are prefixes, not words. The only root in there is reg-.
    – RegDwigнt
    Mar 29, 2011 at 19:07
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Here's the list I have: albeit, heretofore, howsoever, inasmuch, insofar, insomuch, nevertheless, nonetheless, notwithstanding, nowadays, whatsoever, wherewithal, whosoever. Some have suggested whensoever and wheresoever, but those are used (if ever) primarily in legal writing. I seem to remember a friend using a four-word closed/solid compound not too long ago, but can't recall what it was!

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  • Might it have been hereintofore? It's a legal term meaning (I believe) "previously in this document."
    – Sven Yargs
    Oct 1, 2015 at 3:54
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Words are made up of morphemes, which are either free or bound morphemes. Some words comprise of a free morpheme only like the word establish which comprises of a single free morpheme. Disestablish, on the other hand is a word made up of two morphemes, of which dis is a bound morpheme and establish, as stated before, is a free morpheme. By the same token, we can analyse other bound morphemes like ar, ial, iz, im, and so on. As such, disestablishmentarialism, etc are wordssss.

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  • Hi nagham. Welcome to ELU. I don't really understand your last sentence - unless you just mean disestablishmentarialism is "one word, plus a few non-word additions". But the point about free/bound morphemes is certainly central to OP's question. Dec 14, 2011 at 21:43
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Antidisestablishmentarianism is the longest one I've heard.

anti-dis-establish-ment-arian-ism

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  • 7
    Well, all those dis-, -ment, -ism and whatnot are not words. They are bound morphemes. So I see your antidisestablishmentarianism and raise you an antidisestablishmentarization, antidisestablishmentarizational, antidisestablishmentarizationalize, antidisestablishmentarizationalization, antidisestablishmentarizationalizational, and so on and so forth, ad infinitum. Same with prefixes. I could go antidisantidisantidis... for quite some time. That is not what the OP is looking for.
    – RegDwigнt
    Mar 26, 2011 at 21:00
  • Instead of being deleted, I think it should be preserved. This question is a reasonable (though wrong) alternative and its presence would help in understanding the situation.
    – Mitch
    Aug 1, 2016 at 12:25

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