Boost Your Vocabulary With This Tricky Quiz

By: Teresa McGlothlin
Estimated Completion Time
4 min
Boost Your Vocabulary With This Tricky Quiz
Image: Unsplash by Baylee Gramling

About This Quiz

sIf you're the kind of person who lives to confuse others with a new word, you've found the right quiz! We've scoured the dictionary for some of the trickiest terms in the book. You might think you're a real smartypants because you won the second-grade spelling bee, but how will your word skills hold up to these tough questions? 

As you go through our questions, you'll notice that we haven't tried to confuse you at all. Instead, we've asked straightforward questions, given you straightforward answer options, and even used some words in a sentence for you. Still, you'll need to eat some brain food and put on your thinking cap before you can get all of them right. We promise you tricky, and tricky is what you will get! Can you handle yourself like a walking Scrabble master, or will you need to revisit the words on the SAT? 

Take your time, and think things through before you decide to respond. If you need to consult Dr. Google, we'll wait. You really should try to answer our questions on your own first, though. Will you make yourself proud, or will you learn a few new words? Either way, it's a win-win! Let's see how much of a word nerd you really are!

Vocabulary 1
Wiki Commons by Jolly Janner
What's a word for the outside front of a building? People can put up fake ones, too.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

If you're standing in front of a building, you are seeing a facade. A facade can include windows, bricks, paint or other distinguishing features. When you step inside the building, you may be in the foyer, if one exists.

Vocabulary 2
Unsplash by Sharon McCutcheon
Fill in the blank: Katie's _____ nature made her a great dinner party host.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The word "genial" appeared in the middle of the 16th century, but back then it related to marriage. The current meaning, "warm, friendly and mild," is used here to describe Katie's hosting skills. You can use "genial" to describe either people or some inanimate objects, but you should save its partner "congenial" for when you're talking about a person's attitude.

Vocabulary 3
Pixabay by christels
The UPS driver always brings bones because Kujo is "inimical." Any idea what inimical means?
Easily excited
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Giving your UPS driver a box of bones to carry on their route is a thoughtful gift. They often encounter pups that are territorial or frightened by the truck's noise. After a treat, many inimical dogs will tend to become friendlier.


Vocabulary 4
Unsplash by Sam Balye
The students thought the lecture was full of "circumlocution." Was it a short class?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Have you ever been in a conversation where you kept waiting for someone to get to the point, but it felt like you would never hear it? If you have, you know precisely what "circumlocution" is, without us having to explain it.

Vocabulary 5
Unsplash by Austin Distel
If you get caught up in "minutia," what are you dealing with?
Small details
A traffic jam
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The devil is in the minutia! In other words, dealing with minutia means paying attention to the smallest details. Don't worry — those minute details always add up to a bigger picture.

Vocabulary 6
Unsplash by Oliver Ragfelt
When you give in to someone's wishes, what do you do?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

It might take some convincing, but when you finally give in to someone's wishes or demands, you accede. If you want to make it an even fancier affair, you could always acquiesce.


Vocabulary 34
Unsplash by Phillip Goldsberry
Which word means that someone is pent up with anxiety?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Have you ever seen someone watch an NBA game when their favorite team is playing? If you have, we don't need to explain "apprehensive" to you. You know what it's like to see someone brimming with anxiety.

Vocabulary 7
Wiki Commons by Jorge Royan
Which of these people would your grandparents have visited for shoe repair?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Before the days of mass production, shoes were built to last and made to be repaired. Back in your grandparents' day, they would have taken their shoes to a cobbler for repairs. Cobblers were skilled at reheeling and restitching well-loved footwear.

Vocabulary 8
Unsplash by Logan Weaver
This party is a complete "debacle"! What's the party like?
Posh and upscale
Dull and slow
A total disaster
A rager
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Merriam Webster defines debacle as "a complete disaster" or a "fiasco." Any party that might be described as a debacle has gone completely down the drain and will certainly end in guestless disarray.


Vocabulary 9
Wiki Commons by aphrodite-in-nyc
Oprah is known for her philanthropic gestures. Which word could be used to describe her?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Those who were born with generous hearts can be called munificent souls, using an adjective that means "more generous than expected." Oprah is the perfect person to help define the word for you.

Vocabulary 10
Unsplash by Jeremy Bishop
What's the right way to use "spurious" in a sentence?
Her old fashioned boots were spurious and fun.
Lisa always made spurious decisions, never thinking them through.
Bart tried to do the right thing, but spurious problems kept popping up.
The lawsuit claims that the paper printed spurious information.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

No newspaper worth its salt would dare print spurious information. Although sorting facts from spurious — or false — claims can be difficult, journalists do their best to ensure that all information is correct.

Vocabulary 11
Unsplash by Petr Sevcovic
Mark gave a "truculent" speech about his team's loss. Was it motivational?
No, it was aggressive.
It was tolerant.
His speech was full of inspirational words.
The speech was gracious and conceding.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Let's just say that Mark was feeling a little hot under the collar after the game. Throughout his truculent speech, he aggressively stated the need for improvement. Judging by his ferociousness, he wasn't messing around!


Vocabulary 12
Unsplash by Priscilla Du Preez
If Jack received "plaudits" for his proposal, did he win the crowd over?
He received harsh criticism.
His score was average.
Jack was met with an outpouring of approval.
Everyone laughed at Jack.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

When you think of "plaudits," you should think of applause. Just as no one would clap for something that they disagreed with, no one would give plaudits for it either. "Plaudits," usually used in its plural form, means "enthusiastic approval."

Vocabulary 13
Unsplash by Yuvraj Singh
Why would someone say that Jason is a "garrulous" conversationalist?
Jason's rather rude.
He's always bragging.
Jason's very vitriolic.
He's a master of small talk.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

According to Merriam Webster, the word "garrulous" means "pointlessly or annoyingly talkative." In this case, someone is most likely warning you to avoid Jason at parties unless you want to hear about his new shoelaces for an hour and a half.

Vocabulary 14
Unsplash by Chris Blonk
Do you think you've ever committed "cupidity"?
I've never experienced love at first sight.
I fell in love with the wrong person.
I've been known to be a little callous sometimes.
Everyone's guilty of being greedy sometimes.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Cupid is an adorable little troublemaker in the world of love, but he has little to do with the word "cupidity." Cupidity is another way of saying "greed," which is, in fact, one of the Seven Deadly Sins.


Vocabulary 15
Unsplash by Brad Lloyd
Julia adopted a stray kitten with "alacrity." What does that mean?
She was excited and ready.
She was worried about her allergies.
She didn't really want to adopt the cat.
She was afraid that she wouldn't know what to do.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Julia met her new fur baby with alacrity! She doesn't have allergies, she's not in tears, and she's not afraid of a ball of fluff. Julia is simply brimming with excitement and can't wait to spend time with her new friend.

Vocabulary 16
Wiki Commons by Kritzolina
Where might you hear a "dirge" being played?
A 4th of July parade
The mall
A funeral
A wedding
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

You would hear the sound of a "dirge" being played at a funeral. Also known as an elegy, a coronach or a lament, a dirge is a hymn or song that accompanies a solemn service or ceremony.

Vocabulary 17
Unsplash by Ryan Franco
Fill in the blank: The ______ child was clearly in need of a nap.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Who doesn't get cranky and argumentative when they need a nap? "Fractious" is an adjective used to describe such a temperament, whether the quarrelsome subject is a toddler, a crowd or a politician.


Vocabulary 18
Unsplash by Mimi Thian
Why would you question someone's "reprobate" decisions?
They are lacking principles.
The decisions have been hastily made.
The decisions were made without consulting anyone.
They are making unfair decisions regarding their will or estate.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

When used as an adjective, "reprobate" describes immoral behavior. As a verb, it means "to condemn something as evil or reprehensible." Clearly, then, as a noun, a reprobate is a person who is immoral or evil.

Vocabulary 19
Unsplash by Nik MacMillan
Which of these sentences correctly uses "surreptitious"?
Tom threw a surreptitious party for his wife.
Gavin used a surreptitious excuse to leave work early because he had a job interview.
Marvin's surreptitious nature made him a lot of friends.
Jerry's surreptitious efforts have earned him a lot of praise.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Let's say that you need to get out of something, but you don't want anyone to know the reason why. That's when you make like Gavin and come up with a surreptitious reason why you cannot attend.

Vocabulary 20
Unsplash by frankie cordoba
Mary took "umbrage" at Jack's comments. How was Mary feeling?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The longer Mary listened to Jack's speech, the more umbrage she took, even though Jack did not mean to insult her. Her resentment was evident to everyone in the room, other than Jack.


Vocabulary 21
Unsplash by Form
Which of these adjectives could be used to describe the British stiff upper lip?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

What does it mean to have a "stiff upper lip"? It means to remain unemotional or calm; it also means being "phlegmatic." The British are known for their ability to keep calm and carry on, but we think they should say "keep calm and be phlegmatic." It has a much nicer ring.

Vocabulary 22
Unsplash by Tim Mossholder
Which word works best in the following sentence? Caren refused to ______ her belief in Santa Claus.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

No matter how old she gets, you'll never stop Caren from believing in Santa Claus. She knows that other people buy her presents, but she still believes in the magic of Christmas. She'll never renounce or abjure her holiday faith.

Vocabulary 23
Unsplash by Eliott Reyna
What does it mean to "bilk" someone?
To swindle them
To imitate them
To recommend their services
To compliment their appearance
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

You've probably heard it a million times, but what does it really mean to be "bilked"? If you've been defrauded, hustled, denied rightful payment or otherwise evaded, you've been bilked.


Vocabulary 24
Unsplash by Andrea Tummons
If you're overhearing a "contentious" conversation, what type of dialogue are you hearing?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Whether you're overhearing a friendly conversation or a contentious one, you never know what you might learn. Unlike a friendly conversation, however, a contentious conversation is full of disagreement and unpleasantness.

Vocabulary 25
Unsplash by Taylor Wilcox
You've just received an "epistolary" communication from your best friend. What did you just receive?
A phone call
A letter
A psychic message
A text
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Your best friend has decided to go old-school with their epistolary note. Instead of sending you psychic vibes, they've sent you a handwritten letter. An epistolary novel is one in which letters tell the story.

Vocabulary 26
Unsplash by Alexander Scott Lambley
Everyone left Beth alone because she was in a "fractious" mood. What was Beth like?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

When a person needs space, they can seem a little fractious. In fact, it's easier to recognize someone who's annoyed than all of the other options listed here. When someone is feeling fractious, you'll be able to tell by their body language or spoken language.


Vocabulary 27
Unsplash by Jessica Da Rosa
How would you describe a conversation that completely lacks importance?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

There's nothing worse than being stuck in a conversation that is pointless and meaningless. The next time it happens to you, signal to a friend that you're enduring the inane. With luck, they'll come to your rescue.

Vocabulary 28
Pixabay by nonmisvegliate
What's the correct way to spell the word that means "the ring of a funeral bell"?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

You'll rarely see "knell" without the word "death" accompanying it, and there's a good reason for that. Whether it's used as a noun or a verb, the word is associated with the ominous sound of a funeral.

Vocabulary 29
Unsplash by Leilani Angel
Louis felt like he had reached the "nadir" of his journey. How's Louis coming along?
He's crossed the goal line.
He's hit bottom.
He's in the planning phase.
Louis is having an epiphany.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

You can't have the highs in life without experiencing a few "nadirs." Whether you call it rock bottom or you call it the lowest point, you're talking about a nadir. A nadir is also the point opposite to a zenith in a celestial sphere.


Vocabulary 30
Unsplash by bady qb
True or false: A "neophyte" is someone with a lot of experience under their belt.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Instead of calling the new hire a "newbie," now you have a fancier term! They might not take kindly to being called a "neophyte," but they'll warm up to your charms eventually. Soon they'll train a neophyte of their own.

Vocabulary 31
Unsplash by Helloquence
Lamar considered the information too "tangential" to include in his report. What does tangential mean?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

As Lamar was refining the text of his report, he needed to stick to the relevant facts. Some information, though interesting, was only loosely related to the subject — it was tangential to his point — so Lamar deleted it.

Vocabulary 32
Unsplash by Kinga Cichewicz
Kelly wanted to be "ubiquitous" in her office, but she failed. What couldn't Kelly do?
She couldn't remain neutral.
Kelly was having trouble expressing herself clearly.
She couldn't be everywhere at once.
Kelly couldn't seem to get organized.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Even though she wanted to have a "ubiquitous" presence at work, Kelly faced a common problem. Our lives are busier than ever these days, and it's hard to be in a million places at once. We feel you, Kelly! Whatever you do today is enough.


Vocabulary 33
Unsplash by Harry Cunningham
Are you praising or criticizing someone when you "upbraid" them?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The teacher finally had to upbraid Sam over his disorderly behavior. "To upbraid" is a verb that means "to criticize." Although it sounds positive enough to be praise, it is quite the opposite.

Vocabulary 35
Unsplash by Dawid Zawiła
How strong is the wind when a "zephyr" blows through?
Hurricane strength
A little breeze
Stiff but not violent
Strong and damaging
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Grab a mint julep, and head out to the porch. There's a nice little "zephyr" blowing through this afternoon. We wouldn't send you outside in a hurricane, but we do hope you'll enjoy the gentle breeze.

You Got:
Unsplash by Baylee Gramling