Can You Define All of These Words That Start With X, Y, and Z?


By: Emily Maggrett

6 Min Quiz

Image: John Sommer/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

It's easy to think of words that start with a, s or t. But what about x, y and z? Why does the end of the alphabet get so little love?

We all know the meaning of words like "zoological," "Zen" and "zebra." But do you know what "zenana" means? What about "zygomatic," "zinnwaldite" or "zygosporangium"?

"Yankee," "yellow" and "yearling" are not confusing terms, but what about "yarmulke," "yestereve," "ytriferous" and "yohimbine"? 

"Xeroxing" and "x-raying" are common verbs, but have you heard of "xenographing," "xenogenesis," "xylotomous" or "xenocurrency"?

In this quiz, we're going to focus on words that start with the neglected letters x, y and z. If you're a word wizard, you may ace this test; however, even if you don't have the biggest vocabulary, we bet you'll be able to guess at least a few questions right. Either way, you'll get to dust off some little-used words and add them to your vocabulary.

Come on Generation Xers, Xennials and Generation Z! If you're ready to push your vocabulary skills to their zenith, let's get quizzing!

Off the top of your head, do you know what a "ziggurat" is?

According to Oxford Dictionaries, a ziggurat is '"a rectangular stepped tower, sometimes surmounted by a temple. Ziggurats are first attested in the late 3rd millennium BC and probably inspired the biblical story of the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1–9)".


You're competing in a trivia quiz. To win first place, you've got to know what "yaupon" means. What do you say?

A yaupon, according to Oxford Dictionaries, is a "North American holly, the leaves of which have emetic properties and were formerly used as a tea by North American Indians."


Your wife wants you to travel the world with her, but you're afraid to leave the country. She calls you a "xenophobe". What does that mean?

If you have a fear of those from other cultures, you might just be a xenophobe! According to Oxford Dictionaries, a xenophobe is "a person having a dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries."


Can you guess what a "zincograph" is?

A zincograph is a print produced by zincography, which is the art or process of producing a printing surface on a zinc plate by etching it with acid. (Source: Webster's Dictionary.)


A neighbor knocks on the door and asks to borrow "yarrow". What's she asking you for?

According to Oxford Dictionaries, yarrow is "a Eurasian plant with feathery leaves and heads of small white or pale pink aromatic flowers, which has long been used in herbal medicine". It's also known as milfoil.


You may have a big vocabulary, but do you know what "yare" means?

"Yare" is an adjective used in reference to ships. When a ship is said to be "yare", that means it moves lightly and is easily manageable. (Source: Oxford Dictionaries.)


Someone accuses you of taking part in "xenograft". Can you define xenograft?

A xenograft is "a tissue graft or organ transplant from a donor of a different species from the recipient", according to Oxford Dictionaries.


Your grandmother calls you a "yob". What does that mean?

Your grandmother is being pretty mean! A yob is an irritating and noisome young person. (Source: Oxford Dictionaries.)


Do you know what a "zax" is?

Sorry to disappoint you with a boring answer but, according to Webster's Dictionary, a zax is "a hatchetlike tool for cutting and punching nail holes in roofing slate".


Think you're worldly? Can you define "xerophyte"?

If you live in the Southwest, we're guessing you love xerophytes, as they are plants that can survive without much water. (Source: Oxford Dictionaries.)


If you saw a "xerus", would you be afraid of it?

According to Webster's Dictionary, a xerus is a type of African ground squirrel with spiny fur, a long tail and very short ears. It can be found throughout western, eastern and central Africa.


Here's a secret: we don't know what "yaud" means. Do you?

We were surprised by this definition, but a yaud is an archaic Scottish and Northern English word for "an old mare, especially a worn-out one". (Source: Webster's Dictionary.)


Hey baby boomers! Which of these definitions means "Xanadu"?

Remember the classic 1980 musical "Xanadu"? That film was bananas! However, according to Oxford Dictionaries, Xanadu is "an idealized place of great or idyllic magnificence and beauty".


Let's say you overhear someone saying the word "zany". What are they talking about?

Zany means "amusingly unconventional and idiosyncratic." (Source: Oxford Dictionaries.) Zach Galifianakis is zany; so is Conan O'Brien.


Calling all chicken aficionados: which of these definitions means "yokefellow"?

This is a very odd and outdated word! According to Oxford Dictionaries, a yokefellow is "a person linked to or associated with another, especially in some work or activity; an associate or partner in an undertaking; a fellow-worker. Also occasionally (literal): a draught animal coupled with another in a yoke." This word can also refer to both people in a marriage.


This word has been boggling us all day. Can you tell us what "xeriscape" means?

As global warming intensifies, we may all need to start xeriscaping! A xeriscape is "a garden or landscape created in a style that requires little or no irrigation or other maintenance, used in arid regions". (Source: Oxford Dictionaries.)


Everyone loves "Mulan", but not everyone knows the definition of "yulan". Do you?

A yulan is "a Chinese magnolia with showy white flowers". (Source: Oxford Dictionaries.) They're rather beautiful!


Are you part of the "zeitgeist"? Or at the very least, do you know what a "zeitgeist" is?

Whether you want to be or not, you're definitely a part of the zeitgeist! That's because the zeitgeist is "the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time". (Source: Oxford Dictionaries.)


Give us your best guess: what's a "xebec"?

Don't be embarrassed if you couldn't get this one! According to Oxford Dictionaries, a xebec is "a small three-masted Mediterranean sailing ship with lateen and square sails". Xebecs were popular in the 18th century but are rarely sailed today.


Are you a Coen Brothers fan? Can you recall what "yegg" means?

Remember "Miller's Crossing"? In that Coen Brothers movie, people were calling each other yeggs left and right. According to Oxford Dictionaries, a yegg is early 20th century slang for "a burglar or safe-breaker".


Is "zaftig" an actual word?

Zaftig is actually a word! In fact, it's an adjective meaning "having a full, rounded figure". (Source: Oxford Dictionaries.)


What in the world is "xoanon"?

This term hails from ancient Greece, where it meant "a primitive wooden image of a deity".


It's now popular as a baby name, but can you tell us the true definition of "zephyr"?

While you might know a baby or two by this name, zephyr means "a soft gentle breeze", according to Oxford Dictionaries. In Old English, "zephyr" specifically referred to a personification of the west wind.


"Yeanlings": what the heck are they?

Yeanling is an archaic word for the young of a sheep or goat". (Source: Webster's Dictionary.) Sounds adorable!


Do you know what "yardarm" means? (Hint: it's not just a senseless combination of the words "yard" and "arm".)

A yardarm is "the outer extremity of a ship's yard", according to Oxford Dictionaries. We're not sure why it was necessary to invent a specific word for this area, but life can be mysterious sometimes.


Pop quiz! What's a "ziti"?

What's for dinner? Ziti! According to Oxford Dictionaries, ziti are "pasta in the form of tubes resembling large macaroni".


If you hear the word "yaff", do you feel happy or annoyed? What's its meaning?

If your neighbor's dog won't stop barking, he's officially yaffing! Yaff is a Scottish and Northern English word meaning "to bark or yelp". (Source: Webster's Dictionary.)


Yo English majors! What's "xerosis"?

You don't see this word every day! Xerosis is "an abnormal dryness, as of the eye or skin". (Source: Webster's Dictionary.) If you're suffering form xerosis, we hope you recover soon.


Want to impress us? Can you tell us what a "yeoman" is?

A yeoman is a historical word for "a man holding and cultivating a small landed estate; a freeholder". (Source: Oxford Dictionaries.) Yeoman were of a different class than other types of English farm workers during the Middle Ages, as most of them were serfs. In the navy, a yeoman is a type of petty officer.


This is a question for those of you who like lounging: what's a "zori"?

A zori is "a traditional Japanese style of flip-flop shoe, originally made with a straw sole". (Source: Oxford Dictionaries.) They're great for wearing around the house.


Are you in it to win it? Can you remember what "xylitol" means?

If you're a dieter, you probably knew this one! Xylitol is "a sweet-tasting crystalline alcohol derived from xylose, present in some plant tissues and used as an artificial sweetener in foods". (Source: Oxford Dictionaries.)


Hey ya'll! Can you define "yawl"?

Who's up for a boat party? But seriously, a yawl is "a two-masted fore-and-aft-rigged sailing boat with the mizzenmast stepped far aft so that the mizzen boom overhangs the stern". (Source: Oxford Dictionaries.)


What the heck is "zydeco"?

Get out your dancing shoes! Zydeco is "a kind of black American dance music originally from southern Louisiana, typically featuring accordion and guitar". (Source: Oxford Dictionaries.)


Is "yatata" a real word?

Yep, this is the predecessor to "yadayadyada" on "Seinfeld". According to Webster's Dictionary, yatata is 1940s slang for "empty conversation".


Want to prove you have the biggest lexicon in town? Tell us what "zither" means!

If you're a music fan, you might find this interesting! According to Oxford Dictionaries, a zither is "a musical instrument consisting of a flat wooden soundbox with numerous strings stretched across it, placed horizontally and played with the fingers and a plectrum. It is used especially in central European folk music".


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!