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BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 10 November 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:1152

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More Floccinaucinihilipilification

Minerva may find this of interest. It is information available in
Wikipedia and contains much of which I have
previously garnered from other sources.

It is the longest non-technical word in the first edition of the
Oxford English Dictionary, which presents it "as enumerated in a well-
known rule from the Eton Latin Grammar". The OED dates its first use in
literature at 1741 in William Shenstone's Works in Prose and Verse: "I
loved him for nothing so much as his flocci-nauci-nihili-pili-fication of

Though the OED gives no specifics on its derivation, the word is said
to have been invented as an erudite joke by a student of Eton College,
who, upon consulting a Latin textbook, found four words connoting
'nothing' or 'worthless', combined them, and added verb endings:

* floccus, -i a wisp or piece of wool, used idiomatically as flocci
non facio ("I don't care"; more literally "I don't give a wisp of wool")

* naucum, -i a trifle

* nihilum, -i nothing; something valueless

* pilus, -i a hair; a bit or a whit; something small and

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

17 November 2005
H. Larry Penning
Retired Pathologist
Decatur, Il U.S.A 62521