Fears and phobias are very real and the human mind is capable of developing them towards virtually anything or any situation. The fear of long words phobia or Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is often considered a jocular or fictional phobia; however, that is not the case and long words phobia is actually very real and does exist.
People suffering from Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia tend to experience a great deal of anxiety when faced with long words. It is indeed ironical that the scientific name given to this phobia is such a long one. Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia can actually be broken down into several parts: Hippo- is ‘horse’ in Greek and potam-os is river. Thus the first part of the word refers to a water horse also otherwise known as Hippopotamus. The Oxford Dictionary uses the word: Hippopotamine to refer to “something very large”. The word “monstr” is the Latin origin of a ‘monstrous being’ or something that is huge or terrifying and sesquippedalio is derived from Latin sesquippedali meaning ‘measuring a foot and a half long’. Phobos stands for morbid fear.
Causes of Fear of Long Words Phobia
Most specific phobias, including the fear of long words phobia, are caused by an event that is recorded by parts of the brain (namely the amygdala and hippocampus) as dangerous or deadly. The body then reacts as if the same event is bound to happen repeatedly. A person with severe Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is literally held a prisoner by his feelings of anxiety and panic he experiences at the thought or sight of long words.
No one is born with this phobia. Most people have simply learned it from an unpleasant episode. In fact; many individuals do not even remember how the fear started.
School going children (or in some cases, working adults) might have experienced being laughed at or having been embarrassed (or found themselves shaking, trembling etc) when reading/pronouncing long words. The mind then continues to create the same response without any basis. For a person suffering from Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, the mind develops negative images, bad movie-like stills at the thought or sight of long words.
Symptoms of Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia
Each individual is different and so are his/her symptoms of Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia.
Typically, the symptoms of long words phobia can be characterized as mental, emotional or physical. Many individuals feel extremely anxious or have a full blown panic attack at the sight or thought of long words.
Physical symptoms include shaking, crying, running away, trembling, feeling nauseated, experiencing headaches, rapid or accelerated heartbeat and shallow breathing etc.
The person is likely to feel dread and terror; his mind creates very bad pictures such as embarrassing oneself, passing out etc when faced with long words.
Often the patient understands that his fear is irrational and unsupported; however, he is unable to control himself and is powerless to rationalize.
Treating and overcoming the fear of long words phobia
The good news is that Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia can be overcome. Drugs and medicines must be the last resort as these simply mask the symptoms of anxiety experienced due to the phobia. The solution to overcoming the fear of long words is to mainly recall and evaluate the factors that have led to the phobia in the first place.
Therapists can also help evaluate these factors to come up with a treatment plan. The individual is then encouraged to expose self to long words gradually: beginning with just seeing the word, then progressing to thinking about long words and finally saying them. Such gradual exposure helps lessen the panic until the individual is completely comfortable and can face long words confidently.
Using self help methods like deep breathing, relaxing and meditating etc are also recommended while dealing with this phobia. Talk therapy, cognitive behavior therapy and behavior therapy are some other important and effective therapies for treating Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia.
first off i says
Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia.. if people are scared of big words, do you really think they’d read their own phobia name?
Long word, do you think anyone would be afraid of looooooooooong?
Congratulations to the creation of this word. What a fascinating etymological history. Indubitably, the originator feels hostility toward hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobiacs. I used to think indubitably was a long word..
Latoya Yakatally says
Whoever made this word is being a jerk to people who suffer from it.
What do you call someone who is afraid of unknown words?
I work with a woman who is afraid of words she doesn’t know or recognize.
Believe it or not!!!!
Xenophobia. A fear of the unknown.
The irony is real.
Yes, it is.
My lord, why is this a thing, I have not drawn but wrote all the phobias in My Journal, I almost skipped this one.
Maybe you suffer slightly from hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia.
Am I the only one that finds it funny that the word for the fear of long words is an extremely long word?
You’re not the only one.
Why does this phobia exist
Because people have it.
Everyone who is afraid of this fear is afraid of the word itself because the word is incredibly long so why did scientists name the word Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia if the word is one of the longest words in history.
Mr. Iglesias says
I think it IS the longest word in the English language.
I’d love to find out who “named” it, in order to know who to dedicate this month’s “a**holes of history” award to.
Another one is the person who put the ‘S’ in lisp.
Actually there is a much longer word that takes 3.5 hours to pronounce that would be the ultimate fear.
Edamame Wasabi says
It’s not the longest word; you have Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (I actually had to type this because I am too lazy to search for it) and the long version of Titin, Methionylthreonylthreonylglutaminylarginyl (I did not type that.)
Great article but i was just wondering about how many people have it, and what kind of people get it (racially/gender). Not meant to be racist or sexist. Thank you.
Wow this is really true? I mean i believe it but why do these things end up here in this world?
Have anyone tried to learn German?
Ron Gruenig says
Yes, honey, (I hope you’re a girl). Manyone (I love your English) have tried to learn German. You simply need to pinch yourself in bottom and use your head. Is Indo-European language, like Latin and French and Russian and Spanish and Polish and Italian and ENGLISH! So why make big issue of learning German? I’ve done it – and at least hundreds of thousands of others too. So why not you, dearest Larunbata?
Landa calreisan says
I’ll bet that people with Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia try to stay away from Germany and German speaking folks.
no sadly but i want to
Drew E says
Can I find this fear in a book? im doing a report for it, and i need a book quote…
If you are seriously writing an academic paper, you can probably use “sesquipedalophobia”.
Christian Gutierrez says
sandy acres says
Why is the world so cruel.
You’re right Sandy. If you think the world is cruel, wait till 2020.
Oh how wrong you were to think that would be the worst of it.
I have a feeling when we hit 2025 or so there’ll be another milestone.
Longest phobia in the history of phobias.. ever!
It freaks me out.
Great article, lots of good info for my report.
Eliza Santos says
If this is an actual fear, and the person who suspects they fear long words and would wish to find out what it is called, why is the name of the phobia a long word itself?
James Dor says
Because scientists are terrible and rude.
silvia paws says
no they are not
some bored guy says
yes they are
Dr Aaron Phillips says
Indeed they are extremely rude and quite mean to people with genuine fears, exploiting them for science, making their life hell due to the natural instinct to know what the problem is and where the source is coming from.
They are not.
SMS Student says
They are not!
Norman Osborne says
We just have a sense of humour!
Unlike the rest of the planet it seems.
Ah yes causing panic attacks is funny, my mistake. But I do find it a bit funny, in the sense of dark humor. Just ironic. I’m just so uncomfortable I try to trick my brain to think it’s funny.