Antidisestablishmentarianism: a fancy word

I am guilty. Guilty of being able to spell the word above without using a spell-checker. It’s a curious word and I think it is worth knowing what it means and where it came from. Let’s dissect it. As all great stories do, it starts in Medieval England…

Henry VIII was famous for two things. Marrying women and executing folk. As it so happens, he was married to a very important lady, called the Catherine of Aragon. They were married for quite some time but there was a significant problem with her: she couldn’t give Henry a son. You see, the English have very specific rules about who gets to sit on the throne, explained here. Hence, Henry desperately wanted a son in order to pass his crown to him and name him the heir upon his demise. This was a problem and as Catherine was getting older and older, Henry began to worry. The only way to solve this issue and somehow acquire a legitimate heir would be to get married again. Yet, this was not really a possibility since the church did not allow divorces. So, Henry did what any reasonable person in his place would do; he started his own church. That is now called the Church of England, the state church of the country.

However, some people were Catholic and therefore didn’t particularly appreciate that Henry established this new church as the state church very much. Hence, they wanted to disestablish this church as the official church of England. Hence, this cause was dubbed disestablishment. However, other folks didn’t particularly appreciate this and fought against it. Their movement was, therefore, antidisestablishmentary. A person who supported this movement was then known as antidisestablishmentari-an. Group up enough of these people and suddenly, you have the ideological movement of antidisestablishmentari-an-ism. Antidisestablishmentarianism. There you go, one of the longest words in the dictionary.

To end with a little quirk, even Eminem used this word in one of his songs, Almost Famous. Listen to him rap this insane word in the following clip.




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