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

By: Emily Maggrett
Estimated Completion Time
7 min
Can You Define All of These Words That Start With X, Y, and Z?
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?
It's a Sumerian temple in the shape of a terraced pyramid.
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)".
It's a Canadian version of baccarat.
It's a type of hen from East Asia.
It's a honey candy that was popular in the 1920s.

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You're competing in a trivia quiz. To win first place, you've got to know what "yaupon" means. What do you say?
It's an egg-based soup.
It's slang for "handsome."
It's a North American Indian word meaning "holly tree."
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."
It's a type of hat.

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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?
It's an adjective meaning "clean".
It's another word for "microbe".
It's a term for someone who hates people from other places.
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."
It's a type of medical probe.

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Can you guess what a "zincograph" is?
It's a map of a given region's natural resources.
It's an image produced by a zinc-based printing process.
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.)
It's the hybrid animal produced by the rare mating of a zebra and giraffe.
It's someone who compulsively eats zinc and other minerals.

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A neighbor knocks on the door and asks to borrow "yarrow". What's she asking you for?
Yarrow is a type of boat.
Yarrow is an old Yankee word for "blond".
Yarrow is a medicinal herb/flower.
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.
Yarrow is a verb that means "to till the soil".

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You may have a big vocabulary, but do you know what "yare" means?
It means "loud and obnoxious".
It means "agile and easy to handle".
"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.)
It's a country term for a female hare.
It's a type of low-alcohol beer from Yorkshire.

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Someone accuses you of taking part in "xenograft". Can you define xenograft?
It's a blanket term for hybrid plants.
It's a cross-species organ transplant.
A xenograft is "a tissue graft or organ transplant from a donor of a different species from the recipient", according to Oxford Dictionaries.
It's a type of cryptocurrency theft.
It's an eccentric 18th century writing system that has fallen out of use.

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Your grandmother calls you a "yob". What does that mean?
It's a slow horse.
It's an annoying young person.
Your grandmother is being pretty mean! A yob is an irritating and noisome young person. (Source: Oxford Dictionaries.)
It's an archaic word meaning "low-quality bread".
It's slang for "mouth".

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Do you know what a "zax" is?
It's a French saxophone.
It's a coding language.
It's a roofing tool.
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".
It's slang for "relaxed".

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Think you're worldly? Can you define "xerophyte"?
It's a person who loves traveling.
It's a type of Arctic worm.
It's a plant which thrives in desert conditions.
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.)
It's a word for any number which has been divided by pi.

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If you saw a "xerus", would you be afraid of it?
No. It's an African squirrel.
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.
No. It's the word for the original piece of paper that you make Xerox copies from.
Maybe. It's a type of long staff.
Perhaps. It's an adjective meaning "scaly".

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Here's a secret: we don't know what "yaud" means. Do you?
It's an adjective meaning "bawdy".
It's a type of veil worn by novitiates.
It's a verb meaning "to crochet with coarse wool".
It's an old mare.
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.)

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Hey baby boomers! Which of these definitions means "Xanadu"?
It's a Babylonian knight.
It's a magical paradise.
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".
It's the name of a famous Mongolian general.
It's a type of Bolivian cheese.

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Let's say you overhear someone saying the word "zany". What are they talking about?
It's an adjective meaning "wild and zesty".
Zany means "amusingly unconventional and idiosyncratic." (Source: Oxford Dictionaries.) Zach Galifianakis is zany; so is Conan O'Brien.
It's a sort of pasta.
It's a synonym for "calm".
It's a kind of Cajun music.

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Calling all chicken aficionados: which of these definitions means "yokefellow"?
It's a person who is obsessed with eggs.
It's a person who is linked to you.
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.
It's an old Southern word for chicken.
It's 19th century slang for "railroad worker".

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This word has been boggling us all day. Can you tell us what "xeriscape" means?
It's a new process for black-and-white photography.
It's a form of water-conscious landscaping.
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.)
It's an x-ray of a building.
It's a verb meaning "to add zinc to a chemical compound".

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Everyone loves "Mulan", but not everyone knows the definition of "yulan". Do you?
It's Japanese slang meaning "a gangster's girlfriend".
It's a type of watercolor painting.
It's a flowering magnolia.
A yulan is "a Chinese magnolia with showy white flowers". (Source: Oxford Dictionaries.) They're rather beautiful!
It's a type of clay pot.

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Are you part of the "zeitgeist"? Or at the very least, do you know what a "zeitgeist" is?
It's a type of cheesy bread.
It's a long skirt with several petticoats worn beneath it.
It's a Scandinavian ghost.
It's the mood of the times.
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.)

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Give us your best guess: what's a "xebec"?
It's a small ship.
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.
It's a sort of raw linen cloth.
It's slang for someone who is not from Quebec.
It's a type of seeded cracker.

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Are you a Coen Brothers fan? Can you recall what "yegg" means?
It's an egg-based dessert.
It's a thief.
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".
It's an adjective meaning "solid".
It's a Yiddish term meaning "nice man".

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Is "zaftig" an actual word?
It's another word for "curvy".
Zaftig is actually a word! In fact, it's an adjective meaning "having a full, rounded figure". (Source: Oxford Dictionaries.)
It's a sort of air balloon.
It's a ancient German penny.
It's a type of Norwegian hammock.

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What in the world is "xoanon"?
It's a type of jackfruit.
It's a Greek wooden image.
This term hails from ancient Greece, where it meant "a primitive wooden image of a deity".
It's a verb meaning "to write a bibliography".
It's an adjective meaning "made from iron".

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It's now popular as a baby name, but can you tell us the true definition of "zephyr"?
It's a type of firework.
It's a gentle wind.
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.
It's a mythological creature with a high sex drive.
It's a verb meaning "to fly at a low level".

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"Yeanlings": what the heck are they?
A yeanling is a lamb or kid.
Yeanling is an archaic word for the young of a sheep or goat". (Source: Webster's Dictionary.) Sounds adorable!
A yeanling is a small water mill.
A yeanling is a type of steak and kidney pie.
A yeanling is an adjective for a plant that lacks sufficient sun.

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Do you know what "yardarm" means? (Hint: it's not just a senseless combination of the words "yard" and "arm".)
It's a type of coarse yarn.
It's a term for the tan one develops from gardening outdoors.
It's the outer edges of a ship's yard.
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.
It's a noun meaning "much ado about nothing".

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Pop quiz! What's a "ziti"?
It's a tiny Pacific fish.
It's a tubular pasta, similar to rigatoni.
What's for dinner? Ziti! According to Oxford Dictionaries, ziti are "pasta in the form of tubes resembling large macaroni".
It's a culinary seasoning mix, made up of seeds.
It's an unusual type of bolo tie.

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If you hear the word "yaff", do you feel happy or annoyed? What's its meaning?
It means "to bark or yelp".
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.)
It means to giggle uncontrollably.
It's a kind of high-alcohol cider.
It's an Old English word for "leather bag".

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Yo English majors! What's "xerosis"?
It's the opposite of mitosis.
It means "dry eyes or skin".
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.
It's a verb meaning "to mimeograph".
It's the process of introducing irrigation.

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Want to impress us? Can you tell us what a "yeoman" is?
It's a type of yew tree.
It's an early cave man.
It's an old-fashioned word for an English farmer.
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.
It's a sort of Lebanese olive.

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This is a question for those of you who like lounging: what's a "zori"?
It's a sort of racing sloop.
It's a Siberian tea pot.
It's a Japanese sandal.
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.
It's a kind of hot cross bun.

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Are you in it to win it? Can you remember what "xylitol" means?
It's a kind of nylon fabric.
It's an artificial sweetener.
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.)
It's a musical instrument.
It's an architectural term for "open hallway".

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Hey ya'll! Can you define "yawl"?
It's an angry yell.
It's a type of loud and difficult cat.
It's Southern slang for "bureau".
It's a sailboat.
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.)

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What the heck is "zydeco"?
In clothing, it's a kind of ruffle.
It's a large and colorful bird from Southwest Brazil.
It's a type of three-card poker.
It's a kind of folk music from Louisiana.
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.)

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Is "yatata" a real word?
It's a yam and potato hybrid.
It's a sort of shapeless cotton dress.
It's slang for boring, meaningless conversation.
Yep, this is the predecessor to "yadayadyada" on "Seinfeld". According to Webster's Dictionary, yatata is 1940s slang for "empty conversation".
It's a Ukrainian turnip casserole.

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Want to prove you have the biggest lexicon in town? Tell us what "zither" means!
It's a musical instrument.
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".
It's a kind of light wind.
It's a form of Arcadian dance music.
It's a kind of porous stone.

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