Are You a Word Whiz? See How Many of These Smarty Pants Words You Can Get Correct!


By: Maria Trimarchi

6 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Abscond. Magnanimous. Rancor. Can you handle all these words? Well, we've got harder ones coming!

Shakespeare, it's estimated, used about 34,000 words in his writing and communications, but he probably knew closer to 66,000 words. And what about you? Did you know that you learn one new word every one to two days, until you reach middle age? It's true -- it's been found that you'll know 10,000 words by age 8, and by the time you're 20 years old, if you're an average native English speaker, you'll know about 42,000 words, By the time you're ready to retire? You know as many as 48,000 words.

Having a big vocabulary and knowing how to use it, well, that's two different things, isn't it? One way to score well on academic tests like the SAT is to have a good vocabulary -- and to memorize ten-cent words that are considered to be "SAT words," But how much of that is just for the test, and how much of that vocabulary stays with you? Between common nouns and adjectives and verbs, and the jargon that comes from industry or specific interests, there are a lot of words out there to learn. In fact, although each of us have tens of thousands of words at our disposal in our dictionaries, most people typically only use about 5,000 words in their speech, and about double that in written communication.

Having a good vocabulary isn't just going to help you score well on tests -- it's practical, plus, it boosts your powers of persuasion. You'll understand more of what you read and hear, and you'll communicate more effectively, both in speech and in writing. (And now just when it comes to understanding the Bard.) Are you ready to find out if you're a word whiz? Let's get down to it.

If the fog is thick and widespread on a gloomy, wet day, you could say that the fog is what?

A fog that's thick and widespread could be called a ubiquitous fog -- because it seems to be everywhere.


If someone makes a comment that's harmless and inoffensive, it's what kind of remark?

Something innocuous is something that's not harmful or offensive. A libelous, slanderous or deleterious remark would have been hurtful.


If they were feeling confounded by how to repair a sagging and cracked backyard patio, you could say they were feeling what?

If you're flummoxed by something, you're befuddled, confused or perplexed. They were "flummoxed" about how to repair the sagging and cracked backyard patio.


If you passed the test with assurance, confidence and composure, you could say you did it with what?

If you passed the test with assurance, confidence and composure, you might say you passed with "aplomb." It's the right word to use when your self-confidence shines through, especially under challenging circumstances.


What does it mean if you have a "caustic" sense of humor?

An acerbic, mordant or sarcastic sense of humor can be described as "caustic" -- which means that you have biting wit.


Which word in Latin means "it does not follow" -- and is something that isn't relevant to the issue at hand?

A non sequitur is a statement or a conclusion that doesn't logically follow what preceded it. It's used a lot in books, movies and TV, usually for comedic affect.


As they toured the old missions, they noticed its _____ style. How would you describe its functional and modest appearance?

The correct completion of this sentence is: As they toured the old missions, they noticed the austere style. It describes the plain, minimal appearance of something.


When they moved downtown, they didn't count on the _____ of sound from horns, people, and other harsh noises.

Use "cacophony" to correctly complete this sentence, as: When they moved downtown, they didn't count on the cacophony of sound from horns, people, and other harsh noises. A cacophony is a discordance of sound, when inharmonious harsh noises mix together.


If you publish a book about something so specific that only few people understand, it's called what?

Esoteric means that something is intended to be understood by only a small number of people who have a specialized interest or knowledge.


If you have general discomfort, body weakness and no energy, it's said you're experiencing what?

If you're experiencing malaise, you may have general body discomfort and weakness, as well as no energy -- like at the beginning of a cold, flu or other illness.


If you've been slow to understand a simple situation, you may be being what?

Someone who's slow to understand a simple thing, like a situation or even a joke, is said to be "obtuse." You may also hear obtuse in mathematics: obtuse is also used to describe an angle between 90 and 180 degrees.


If you persuade someone to do something they don't really want to do by using insincere flattery, compliments, or promises, it's said you've ____ them into it.

Persuading someone to do something they are reluctant or opposed to doing by using insincere flattery, compliments or promises is known as cajoling them into it.


Someone who is outgoing, friendly and enjoys being social is known as a _____ person.

Being a gregarious person means you're a social person who is fun-loving and enjoys the company of others.


If you're afflicted with "the blahs," it's just another name for what?

A feeling of being bored, dissatisfied and mentally tired caused by having nothing interesting to do is called ennui -- it's also nicknamed, "the blahs."


If you're speaking in a smooth-talking, easy way but it appears insincere, you're being ____.

If you're dancing around the issue and making promises you don't expect to keep, you're being glib.


When someone takes "umbrage" with something, they find it what?

If you take umbrage with something, you find that something to be offensive and rude. For example, you may take umbrage with remarks about your political or religious beliefs.


Which is a synonym for the noun idiosyncrasy?

A person's quirky or eccentric temperament or characteristics are considered their idiosyncrasies.


If a person wants to disconnect from his past, it can be said he wants to _____ from it.

To "dissociate" from your past means you're detaching yourself from it, separating yourself from any association with it.


If you "exacerbate" the situation, what have you done?

If you've made a bad situation worse or somehow compounded a problem, it means you've exacerbated it.


Which is the philosophical idea that you can only be sure your own mind exists, while everything in the external world might not?

According to solipsism, you can only be sure that your own mind -- your inner world -- exists, but that you can't be certain an external world exists outside of your mind.


If your work obfuscates rather than clarifies the real issue, it does what?

If your presentation is full of jargon that makes your point unclear, unintelligible or confusing, it's possible your arguments were obfuscated.


A person who gets too caught up in the small details while insisting on perfection is what?

A fastidious person will get too caught up in the small details, wanting everything to be exactly perfect. For example, if you're quite fastidious about your home, you're very attentive to and concerned about its cleanliness.


What rhetorical device is being used when Lord Darlington said, "I can resist everything except temptation," in Oscar Wilde's comedy, "Lady Windermere's Fan"?

In Oscar Wilde's play, "Lady Windermere's Fan," written in 1892, Lord Darlington states in Act I, "I can resist everything except temptation." The contradiction in the figure of speech of the oxymoron is often used for comical effect.


If an argument is unsubstantiated or weak, it's said to be what?

If something is "tenuous," it's weak, flimsy and, overall, has very little substance. A tenuous argument is one that lacks sound reasoning.


A person who is modest and reserved is often called what?

A person who is modest and reserved may be called "demure." It can also be an affected shyness, such as a "demure" smile.


If a person endures hardship and pain without complaint or show of feeling, they may be a what?

A person who endures pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining is considered to be a stoic.


The sweet-sounding voice of the singer on your favorite reality TV show could be described as what?

The sweet-sounding voice of the singer on your favorite reality TV show has what is a called a mellifluous voice -- it's pleasant and rich, and its smoothness might even lull you to sleep.


If your friend is fickle, impulsive or inconstant, you could say that they're what?

Anyone who's impulsive and unpredictable could be described as "capricious." Other things can be described this way too, such as capricious weather.


If a person has died, we say he's "passed away." What is this an example of?

If a company says they're 'downsizing," it's another way of saying they're laying people off. If a person has died, we say that he's "passed away." That's what "euphemisms" are used for -- they substitute a more pleasant-sounding word or phrase for the harsher truth. A dysphemism is its opposite.


If you break up and reconcile a lot with a friend or partner, your relationship could be considered what?

If a couple's relationship is "volatile," they may break up and reconcile often.


If your situation is difficult or complicated, it's called what?

If the predicament you're in is complicated or difficult, and hard to extract yourself from, it's called a quagmire.


Activities that are criminal or wicked are also known as what?

Superheroes, for instance, are always foiling the nefarious plots of villains. If a person or organization's actions are criminal or wicked, they're said to be "nefarious" schemes or activities.


If you're a person who flatters those who have influence in order to win favor, you're a what?

A sycophant is a person who tries to win favor from another, usually a person who is influential or in authority, through flattery -- or by generally being a yes-man.


The political debate ended shortly after vitriolic remarks were made about the incumbent. What kind of remarks are "vitriolic"?

Vitriol is scathing, nasty criticism, and the anger and hate expressed through it can spark violence. It's also an old, outdated name for sulfuric acid -- an acid which can burn through just about anything.


If someone says to you, "Let's vamoose!," what do they want you to do?

Call it skedaddling, vamoosing or leaving in a hurry, it's all the same -- get out of there, fast.


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