The longest words in German

Deutsche Wörter lassen sich wie Lego-Bausteine zusammenstellen

I recently posted about German compound nouns and how they work. German is known for its inordinately long words and I started to wonder: Which words are considered the longest words in German? So I checked the German word bible, a.k.a. the Duden dictionary. The longest word — Kraftzeug-Haftpflichtversicherung — comes in at 36 letters. Here are the top 10 longest words listed in the dictionary, longest first. (If you want to know what they mean, click on the text of each word and an English definition will appear.)

1. Kraftfahrzeug-Haftpflichtversicherung automobile liability insurance
2. Donau-Dampfschifffahrtsgesellschaft Danube (River) Steamship Company
3. Rhein-Main-Donau-Großschifffahrtsweg Rhine-Main-Danube shipping lane
4. Arbeiterunfallversicherungsgesetz Worker’s Compensation Act
5. Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz Federal Education and Training Assistance Act
6. Straßenverkehrs-Zulassungs-Ordnung road traffic licensing regulations
7. Behindertengleichstellungsgesetz Equal Opportunities for People with Disabilities Act
8. Steuervergünstigungsabbaugesetz Tax Benefits Reduction Act
9. Nahrungsmittelunverträglichkeit food intolerance
10. Lebensversicherungsgesellschaft life insurance company

However, these are certainly not the longest words in German. If you go searching for long words, you will find even longer ones. Schauspielerbetreuungsflugbuchungsstatisterieleitungsgastspielorganisationsspezialist comes in at 85 letters. Neunmilliardeneinhundertzweiundneunzigmillionensechshunderteinunddreißigtausendsiebenhundertsiebzigfache is 104 letters long. Duden does not include these words in its dictionary because they generally appear only once in the whole collection of German language texts that Duden examines. In fact, there is no limit on the length of compounds in German and the language allows for users to make their own compounds when a sought-after word doesn’t exist.

If we examine Duden’s text corpus of German and pinpoint only the words that appear at least four times in documented sources, these turn up as the longest words used in real German contexts. As above, the majority of words appear in the contexts of legal- and adminstrative-speak or are scientific terms.

1. Grundstücksverkehrsgenehmigungszuständigkeitsübertragungsverordnung regulation on the delegation of authority regarding land conveyance permissions
2. Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz law about the delegation of duties for the supervision of beef labeling
3. Verkehrsinfrastrukturfinanzierungsgesellschaft transport infrastructure finance company
4. Gleichgewichtsdichtegradientenzentrifugation equilibrium density gradient centrifugation
5. Elektrizitätswirtschaftsorganisationsgesetz Electricity Industy Organization Act
6. Verkehrswegeplanungsbeschleunigungsgesetz Transport Infrastructure Planning Acceleration Act
7. Hochleistungsflüssigkeitschromatographie high performance liquid chromatography
8. Restriktionsfragmentlängenpolymorphismus restriction fragment length polymorphism
9. Telekommunikationsüberwachungsverordnung telecommunications monitoring regulations
10. Unternehmenssteuerfortentwicklungsgesetz law further amending business taxes

Sources consulted: duden.de
9 comments on “The longest words in German
  1. Saeed says:

    Guten tag
    Ihr blog ist sehr nützlich , danke schön

  2. Max says:

    Very helpful site

  3. Taresh Ali says:

    Grundstücksverkehrsgenehmigungszuständigkeitsübertragungsverordnung

  4. Another funny one is “Toilettenbürstenbenutzungsanweisung” which means “Toilet brush instructions for use”:)

  5. Nawaz says:

    what a difficult language i’ve never seen in my life :(

  6. Alberto Gottlieb says:

    Laengstendeutschenwoertererfindungsgenehmigungsfaehigkeit

  7. DonaldM. says:

    Hi, I am currently struggling with “noch” and “mal”. They appear to be unnecessary in various sentences that they occur in. They’re like extra bits of information with no meaning to me. I have been studying Deutsch or German for six months now and this is what is halting my progress. If anyone could take a little time to give me a simple explanation concerning this matter that would be much appreciated!

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