I’ve been watching a bit of the British TV show QI lately, and they mentioned the fact that the word “typewriter” can be written using the top row of keys on a QWERTY keyboard.

This got me wondering about what commonly-used words are the longest for each row. In addition to “typewriter”, other 10-letter words you can type exclusively on the top row include “perpetuity” and “repertoire”. Claims for “teeter-totter” seem to be cheating, as it is almost always written with a hyphen. The OED lists a few more such words, but none that are common (“pepperwort”?).

For the middle row, the longest seems to be “alfalfa”.

The poor sad bottom row seems to have no examples at all, unless you include “zzz”, which is sometimes used to indicate the sound of sleep.

On a French AZERTY keyboard, one can type the English words “appropriate”, “perpetrator”, “preparatory”, “proprietary”, as well as the winner, “reappropriate”. The longest French words on their national keyboard seem to be “approprieriez” and “pirouetterait”.


  1. says

    More challenging: What are the longest words that can be typed one handed from the “home keys”? (TGB and all to the left, YHN and all to the right)

    Left hand: exaggerated, aggregated, tesseract, battered

    Right hand: pollinium, homophony, monopoly, pillion

    I still have a manual typewriter and use it frequently for quick and dirty notes, teaching, letting kids experience it, and for typing personal letters. People react to typewritten letters now the way they used to react to handwritten letters, appreciating the fact it was written solely for themselves.

    Richard Polt of Xavier University runs The Classic Typewriters Page which contains essays and letters from people who use typewriters. Including one from me.

  2. shallit says

    For the left hand, I find one longer than the ones you suggested: reverberated. Other 11-letter ones include abracadabra, desegregate, reverberate.

    For the right hand, I find kinnikkinnik at 12 letters, and some shorter ones: polyomino (a favorite of mathematicians!), polyphony, polyphyly.

    • says

      I only typed those left/right words off the top of my head. As for the middle row (OTHOMH), I can only think of six letter words: hallah, salaah, Dallas, fallal.

  3. Golgafrinchan Captain says

    Do you know the history of how we got the QWERTY layout? To prevent jams on mechanical typewriters, the most common letters were scattered around the keyboard.

    The Dvorak layout was optimized to have the most common keys on the home row (for English at the time), alternating between hands. As a result, it dominates speed records.

    Windows and other OS’s support Dvorak and I tried learning it for a while but having to switch back to QWERTY every time I used someone else’s computer was messing with my brain.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *