Sesquipedalia or Sesquipedalians: Foot and a Half Long Words, Section One

(obscure verbal usages that challenge your comprehension as to what they mean)


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.

Sesquipedalian cartoon, an example of using excessively big words.
—"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 look at 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
    A rolling stone gathers no moss.


  • Verba Obscura #2
  • Of little value his compunctions
    Who assumes clavinous functions
    When once from circumambient pen,
    Is snatched its equine denizen.
    —Hubert Phillips (with slight revisions)

    It doesn’t do much good to lock the barn door after the horse is stolen.
    Don’t lock the barn door after the horse is stolen.



  • 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

    You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.



  • Verba Obscura #4
  • Subterranean entry port.
    —Anonymous

    Manhole cover (on a street).



  • 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.

    A rolling stone gathers no moss.

    Mr. Sussman wrote: "Are we a nation of dolts?" he inquired angrily. "Must we reduce every thought to a single paragraph of one-syllable words?"



  • 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.
    —Written by Mr. Aaron Sussman, 1955 (See #5 above).

    Too many cooks can spoil the broth.



  • 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.
    —Written by Mr. Aaron Sussman, 1955 (See #5 above).

    People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.



  • Verba Obscura #8
  • That prudent avis that matutinally deserts the coziness of its abode will ensnare a vermiculate creature.
    —Written by Mr. Aaron Sussman, 1955 (See #5 above).

    The early bird catches the worm.



  • Verba Obscura #9
  • Everything that coruscates with effulgence is not ipso facto aurous.
    —Written by Mr. Aaron Sussman, 1955 (See #5 above).

    All that glitters is not gold.



  • Verba Obscura #10
  • Do not dissipate your competence by hebetudinous prodigality lest you subsequently lament an exiguous inadequacy.
    —Written by Mr. Aaron Sussman, 1955 (See #5 above).

    Waste not, want not.



  • Verba Obscura 11

  • An addlepated beetlehead and his specie divaricate with startling prematurity.
    —Written by Mr. Aaron Sussman, 1955 (See #5 above).

    A fool and his money are soon parted.



  • 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.
    —Written by Mr. Aaron Sussman, 1955 (See #5 above).

    It’s an ill wind that blows no man good.



  • Verba Obscura #13

  • One should diligently exercise proper speculation upon that situs that one will eventually tenant if one propels oneself into the aerosphere.
    —Written by Mr. Aaron Sussman, 1955 [with minor revisions] (See #5 above).

    Look before you leap.



  • Verba Obscura #14
  • Aberration is the hallmark of homo sapiens while longanimous placability and condonation are the indicia of supramundane omniscience.
    —Written by Mr. Aaron Sussman, 1955 (See #5 above).

    To err is human, to forgive divine.



  • Verba Obscura #15

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

    You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.



  • Verba Obscura #16
  • When, nimbus-free, Sol marches by
    Across the circumambient sky,
    To graminiferous meads repair—
    Your instant task awaits you there!.
    —Hubert Phillips

    Make hay while the sun shines.



  • Verba Obscura #17
  • That unit of the avian tribe
    Whose movements one can circumscribe
    “In manu,” as a pair will rate
    Subarboreally situate.
    —Hubert Phillips

    A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.


Here are more examples of Sesquipedalians, in Part 2 of 2, 18-33.