Are You a Word Nerd?



By: Brittany Rowland

6 Min Quiz

Image: Darren Rogers / Moment / Getty Images

About This Quiz

You don't mean to brag, but you're an unapologetic word nerd. You "collect" new words from books, newspapers and dictionaries and wait breathlessly for the perfect time to use them in conversation. You correct your teacher's or boss' spelling mistakes (maybe not to their face). You wax poetic about the mythological or literary origins of your favorite words. You can spot a Latin or Greek root word from a mile away.

It's time, though, for word nerds to unite behind a more dignified, awe-inspiring moniker. There's "verbivore," a coinage by author Richard Lederer to describe a voracious word enthusiast. That's a nice one because it's easy to work it into mealtime conversations. "Are you a vegetarian or an omnivore?" a companion might ask. "Oh, no," you reply. "I'm strictly a verbivore."

You might also appreciate the appellation"logophile," which means a "lover of words" and has a scholarly sound to it. A word of caution, though: logophiles are likely to engage in "logomachies," which are intense debates over the correct meaning and usage of words.

Whatever you decide to call yourself, know that your word nerdiness is an attribute to celebrate. It's part of how you write, how you speak, how you think. And if it helps you crush your opponents in Words with Friends, all the better! So scroll down to take this quiz, show off your vocabulary and learn some new words to drop in confabulation.

"Quit your whinging!" is a phrase you're unlikely to hear on "Peppa Pig," even if it's British. What does it mean to "whinge"?

This British word looks like "whine," but the words have different etymologies. "Whinge" came from the Old English word "hwinsian," which means to moan unhappily. Yeah, sounds unpleasant.


Scanning the local police blotter, you see someone described as a "biblioklept." What horrific crime has this person committed?

"Biblioklept" refers to a person who pilfers books. It comes from the root "biblio-," meaning book, and "kleptes," Greek for thief. Unhand that work of literature, cultured ruffian!


People who "shilly-shally" are doing what?

This word is like a cousin to "wishy-washy." It originated in the 1700s with indecisive people saying "Shall I? Shall I?" repeatedly. It can also mean to dawdle, like "dilly-dally."


You're such a word nerd, you don't just say "big." You say this gigantic synonym.

This is one of those fancy literary words. In Jonathan Swift's novel, "Gulliver's Travels," Brobdingnag is an imaginary land of giants. Bonus points if you recognize Lilliputian, too.


You wouldn't want to go to a "hoosgow," knowing that it means this.

"Hoosgow" is a slang term that originated in the American West in the early 1900s. It's likely an incorrect pronunciation of "juzgado," the Spanish word for a court of law.


A "blatherskite" is a person who does what?

We all know at least one blatherskite, a silly person who doesn't stop jabbering. The word appeared in a Scottish song and was well known among soldiers during the American Revolution.


Which word means a halo of light around the head or body of a holy figure, such as in a painting?

If you've seen religious paintings, then you've probably seen the "aureole," or radiance around holy people's heads. Beyonce could have another hit singing, "I can see your aureole ..."


This word means both a "decisive argument" and a "decisive blow." Either way, it's decisive!

The "sock" in this American slang term refers to hitting someone. It's unclear what "-dolager" means. President Lincoln heard a form of this word in the play at which he was killed.


What does "katzenjammer" mean?

Put the German words for cat ("katze") and distress ("jammer") together, and you get this useful word to describe an uneasy feeling, a hangover or a din that aggravates the first two.


If you wanted to describe a crafty, unprincipled person, you'd use this word.

Word experts aren't even sure where this one comes from, only that it's American slang from the 1840s. You can use this as a fun alternative to the more serious word, "Machiavellian."


"The sea was angry that day, my friends," says George Costanza in an episode of "Seinfeld." He could also describe the sea as what?

"Wroth" is an Old English word that means angry, but also turbulent or stormy. It's a good way to describe either the weather or your boss when they catch you napping under your desk.


If you grab someone by the "nuque," you're grabbing which part of the body?

Meaning the nape or back of the neck, "nuque" dates back to the late 1500s and comes from the French. Going further back, it evolved from the Latin and Arabic words for "spinal cord."


Some teachers are "rhadamanthine," meaning this.

In Greek myth, Rhadamanthus was one of three judges who determined dead people's fate in the underworld. He was known as the inflexible, strict one. Hopefully, the other two were nicer.


An impish or mischievous person could also be called what?

Puck in Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is a merry imp, but the word originally had the more sinister meaning of "devil" in Old Norse. Good thing the Bard came along.


Which of the following is another word for a procrastinator?

"Cunctator," or "delayer," was a name given to Roman General Fabius Maximus, who used strategic tactics to defeat Hannibal's army. We wish procrastination was still a positive trait.


A "poetaster" is best described as what?

Isn't English cool? There's even a word for a bad poet! This word has the Latin suffix "-aster," which indicates that something is not as good as the real thing. Everyone's a critic.


"Don't get in a swivet," you advise your friends. What does "swivet" mean?

An American word with an unknown origin, "swivet" describes the state of anxious excitement you're in when you rush out the door still wearing your slippers and forget your keys inside.


The book you're reading has lots of "whangdoodles," which you know means what?

"Whangdoodle" is another Americanism of uncertain origin. Children's authors Roald Dahl and Julie Andrews (yes, that Julie Andrews) featured various whangdoodles in their books.


A package arrives on your doorstep with "frangible" written on it in large letters. What does "frangible" mean?

Yes, "frangible" is another way of saying "fragile." It derives from the Latin word "frangere," which means "to break." The average postal carrier might not know this though, so ...


You tell a friend their house is "algid." What does that mean?

"Algid" may not be in popular use, but it's still an appropriate way to describe your bed mate's frigid feet under the covers. It also describes a type of malaria that involves clammy skin.


Uh-oh, your friend has the "mulligrubs," also known as what?

"Mulligrubs" dates back to the 1590s, but no one knows exactly how it formed. It means a case of the blues or, alternately, a colicky stomach. Use this word when your friend is cranky.


Here's a fun hobby. A "phillumenist" is someone who collects these objects.

The giveaway in the word is "lumen," which is Latin for "light." And "phil" refers to loving something. Someone who's not a phillumenist is the Scarecrow from "The Wizard of Oz."


Which of these words means "sarcastic" or "biting"?

"Mordacious" comes from the Latin word meaning "to bite," but it's used in a figurative sense to describe caustic, acerbic language. So no, your 2-year-old is probably not mordacious.


"Pukka" is a word of Indian origin meaning what?

"Pukka" comes from the Hindu word "pakka," which means "solid." It evolved to mean genuine, reliable or first-class. In modern British slang, something pukka is cool, awesome or hip.


If you're a "cruciverbalist," you enjoy doing what?

Combining the Latin words for "cross" and "word," a cruciverbalist can refer to someone who either makes or solves crosswords. You can bet most avid cruciverbalists use a pen, too.


When a kid says they want to be a "cicerone" when they grow up, you know that means what?

A cicerone is someone who guides sightseers. The word gets its name from Cicero, the famous Roman orator, because tour guides are supposed to be eloquent with their flowery descriptions.


To make an "autoschediastic" speech is to do what?

The next time you hear a public speaker speaking extemporaneously or off-hand, you can call them an autoschediast. But maybe save the comment for your friends, not the Q&A session.


A "mishpocha" is what?

This Yiddish word describes someone's relatives, both by blood and marriage, and close family friends. You can think of it as a tight-knit clan or a network of family and friends.


In "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," characters are petrified, or paralyzed, by the basilisk. They could also be described as what?

"Gorgonize" comes from the Gorgons of Greek myth. Anyone who gazed at these snake-haired monsters would be turned to stone. The word means to hypnotize, mesmerize or petrify someone.


"Your eyes are delightfully amygdaliform," you blurt out to your crush. You're describing their eyes as what?

"Amygdaliform" means having the curved shape of an almond. Blame your amygdala, the almond-shaped part of the brain responsible for strong emotions, for blurting out that mouthful!


What does "melliferous" mean?

"Melliferous" comes from the Latin for "bearing honey," and that's exactly what it means. You might use the related word, "mellifluous," to describe someone with a voice sweet as honey.


How would you define "lickerish"?

"Lickerish" originally referred to a person who enjoys good food, or even the food itself. It evolved to mean "greedy" or "lustful," coming from the French word to describe debauchery.


Glancing at the person in the car next to you, you're surprised to see them "farding!" What are they doing?

"To fard" isn't commonly used in everyday speech, probably because it sounds like ... you know, that other thing. But it means to put on cosmetics. Whew, that isn't so bad!


When you comment on someone's "mansuetude," you're referring to what?

Coming from the Latin words for "hand" (manus) and "to accustom" (suescere), "mansuetude" means tameness or mildness. Remember to use this obscure word the next time you see a docile horse.


You woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and the day just continued to get worse. You'd describe your mood as "gloomy," or this word.

"Lugubrious" comes from the Latin for "relating to mourning," and indeed, we've never heard a gloomier word. It works perfectly to describe an excessively doleful or melancholic person.


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