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Sesquipedalian Words; Part One, 1-17


Sesquipedalia Verba or Sesquipedalians in Action

Etymologically, from Latin sesquipedalis; literally, a foot and a half long, from sesqui- + ped-, pes, foot. Date of origin in English is believed to be from 1656.


1. Having many syllables, long; as in “sesquipedalian terms”.
2. Given to or characterized by the use of long words; “a sesquipedalian political statement”.
3. Long and ponderous; polysyllabic.
4. Measuring or containing a foot and a half; as, a sesquipedalian pygmy; sometimes humorously applied to long words (as in the “Verba Obscura” shown below).
5. Given to the overuse of long words; as with “sesquipedalian political orators”.

A reference to the use of long words; especially when verbal construction utilizing less amplification might represent a more naturally efficacious phraseology, so as a result, we get verba obscura.


An example of using excessively big words or sesquipedalian statements.
“Nancy and Sluggo” comic strip created by Ernie Bushmiller (1905-1982),
March 5, 1962. Copyright by United Features Syndicate.

See if you can determine the meanings of the following sesquipedialian “common proverbs” or sayings before you click on the solutions.

  • Verba Obscura #1

A lithoid form, whose onward course
Is shaped by gravitational force,
Can scarce enjoy the consolation
Of bryophytic aggregation.

      —Hubert Phillips

Translation #1.


  • Verba Obscura #2

Of little value his compunctions
Who assumes clavinous functions
When once from circumambient pen,
Is snatched its equine denizen.

Translation #2.


  • Verba Obscura #3

It’s possible to conduct an equine quadruped to the immediate vicinity of an aqueous liquid, but bibulation cannot be induced by any coercive process.
—Anonymous

Translation #3.


  • Verba Obscura #4

Subterranean entry port.
—Anonymous

Translation #4.


  • Verba Obscura #5

A mass of concentrated geolithic or lapitarial material perennially rotating on its axis will not accumulate an accretion of muscus growth.

A slightly revised rendition of Mr. Aaron Sussman’s obtuse version of a common proverb as seen in Bennett Cerf’s column in This Week Magazine, February 13, 1955. Mr. Sussman wrote: “Are we a nation of dolts? Must we reduce every thought to a single paragraph of one-syllable words?”


Translation #5.


  • Verba Obscura #6

A superabundance of talent skilled in the preparation of gastronomic concoctions will impair the quality of a certain potable solution made by immersing a gallinaceous bird in ebullient Adam’s ale.

Translation #6.


  • Verba Obscura #7

Individuals who perforce are constrained to be domiciled in vitreous structures of patent frangibility should on no account employ petrous formations as projectiles.

Translation #7.


  • Verba Obscura #8

That prudent avis that matutinally deserts the coziness of its abode will ensnare a vermiculate creature.

Translation #8.


  • Verba Obscura #9

Everything that coruscates with effulgence is not ipso facto aurous.

Translation #9.


  • Verba Obscura #10

Do not dissipate your competence by hebetudinous prodigality lest you subsequently lament an exiguous inadequacy.

Translation #10.


  • Verba Obscura 11

An addlepated beetlehead and his specie divaricate with startling prematurity.

Translation #11.


  • Verba Obscura #12

It can be no other than a maleficent horizontally propelled current of gaseous matter whose portentous advent is not the harbinger of a modicum of beneficence.

Translation #12.


  • Verba Obscura #13

One should diligently exercise proper speculation upon that situs that one will eventually tenant if one propels oneself into the aerosphere.

Translation #13.


  • Verba Obscura #14

Aberration is the hallmark of homo sapiens while longanimous placability and condonation are the indicia of supramundane omniscience.

Translation #14.


  • Verba Obscura #15

Conducting to the watering place
A quadruped of equine race
Is simple; but he may not care
To practice imbibition there.

Translation #15.


  • Verba Obscura #16

When, nimbus-free, Sol marches by
Across the circumambient sky,
To graminiferous meads repair—
Your instant task awaits you there!.

Translation #16.


  • Verba Obscura #17

That unit of the avian tribe
Whose movements one can circumscribe
“In manu,” as a pair will rate
Subarboreally situate.

Translation #17.



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