Can You Define All of These Words That Start With Z?

By: Allison Lips

Can You Define All of These Words That Start With Z?
Image: Ramune Golysenkiene/Moment Open/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Z is the twenty-sixth letter of the English alphabet. In the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, India and Australia, it is pronounced "zed." In the United States, the same letter is pronounced as "zee." The differences in pronunciation have different origins. Zed is derived from the Greek letter zeta, whereas zee is a continuation of how B, C and D are pronounced. The latter pronunciation originated in the late 17th century. 

As the last letter of the alphabet, Z may be the most underappreciated. It is one of the least used letters. Around 300 B.C., it was even removed from the alphabet because Roman censor Appius Claudius Caecus decided that the letter was archaic. 

Two hundred years later, Z rejoined the other 25 letters in English. Initially, it was only used in loanwords from Greek, but was eventually fully welcomed back into the language. However, it wasn't always the last letter. That honor goes to the &, which had its shape over 1,500 years before it was named ampersand.  

Are you a fan of the letter Z? Do you like learning new words? Is your vocabulary huge? Find out with this quiz! You may even acquire a few new words to bust out at your next game of Scrabble. 

If you're wearing a shirt with a "zigzag" design, what does it have?
A bunch of circles
Lines with sharp turns that go from side to side
Charlie Brown of "Peanuts" fame always wears a shirt with a black zigzag stripe. "Zigzag" entered the English language through French. Its first appearance was in the early 1700s.
It's tie-dyed.
A cartoon character

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When a chef puts "zest" into a dish, what are they adding?
Egg shells
Salt and pepper
Vinegar
Part of a citrus fruit peel
In the late 1600s, English speakers adopted the word "zest" from French. Originally, it referred to the orange or lemon peels used for flavoring. By the early 1700s, "zest" evolved for non-culinary conversation to include anything that adds a pleasant quality.

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If you're walking outside and feel a "zephyr," what have you experienced?
A gentle breeze
The word "zephyr" comes from the Greek god of the west wind, Zephyros. In 1611, William Shakespeare used the word in his play "Cymbeline."
A drizzle
A downpour of rain
A hailstorm

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If you're listening to "zydeco," what are you hearing?
A loud crash
A type of music
Zydeco is a type of music popular in southern Louisiana. It combines French, Caribbean and blues influences. The word first appeared in the mid-1950s.
Car horns
Thunder

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If you have reached the "zenith," where are you?
Out of bounds
Somewhere in the middle
At the lowest point
At the highest point
"Zenith" entered English from Arabic by way of Old French and Medieval Latin. English speakers adopted the word to mean the highest point in the sky above the observer. It can also mean, less literally, a culmination.

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When someone refers to another person as a "zillionaire," what do they mean?
They are broke.
They are incredibly wealthy.
"Zillionaire" is a combination of millionaire and the made-up word "zillion." "Zillion" was created in the early 1900s to describe an indeterminately huge number. Other similar words have been invented, including "gazillion" and "squillion."
They are generous.
They spend money frivolously.

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If someone is "zealous," how do they feel about someone or something?
Enthusiastic
In the 1520s, "zealous" entered the English language. It shares the Latin root "zelus" with "jealousy." In centuries past, the two words were closer in meaning than they are today. Jealousy and zealousness can both be taken to extremes.
Sad
Angry
Grateful

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What type of vegetable is a "zucchini"?
A green banana
A white eggplant
A green apple
A green summer squash
In 1925, "zucchini" made its first appearance in English. It is a plural form of the Italian word "zucchino," which is a diminutive of the zucca gourd. Another word for zucchini, especially in the U.K., is "courgette."

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What type of dessert are you indulging in if you are eating a "zeppole"?
An Italian donut-like pastry
Zeppole, full name Zeppole di San Giuseppe, are made with choux pastry. They are often eaten to celebrate Saint Joseph's Day. The holiday is celebrated on March 19, to honor the husband of the Virgin Mary.
A German-inspired cake
An Indian bread
French fries

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Your town may be split into "zones." What is a zone?
Forbidden area
Sports team
An area that is distinguished from surrounding areas
In the 15th century, "zone" specifically referred to one of the divisions of the Earth's surface, divided by latitude and temperature. The five zones are North Frigid Zone, North Temperate Zone, South Frigid Zone, South Temperate Zone and Torrid Zone.
Restaurant

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If you're eating a bowl of "ziti," what are you eating?
Eggs
Pasta
In 1845, "ziti" entered English. Ziti is the plural of "zita," which means "young bride" or "maiden." Ziti is tubular pasta, larger than penne. Also, ziti is cut straight across, while penne is cut on the diagonal.
Ice cream
Soup

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In order for a baby to form, a "zygote" must be created. What is a zygote?
A man
A womb
A fertilized ovum
In the late 1880s, zygote entered English. It is derived from the Greek "zygōtós," which means "to yoke or join together." All of this is related to the egg and sperm - or the birds and the bees.
A bed

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A comedian who tells a "zinger" is doing what?
Making a witty remark
The word "zinger" entered English in the 1950s. It can also mean something that is meant to cause surprise. Sheldon on "The Big Bang Theory" says "bazinga" after he's told a zinger - or thinks he has.
Telling a bad joke
Performing a slapstick routine
Warming up the audience

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When your algebra teacher mentioned "zero," what were they talking about?
Infinity
A few numbers
A large amount
A number also known as "naught"
Our "zero" comes from Arabic. Their word "sifr" also inspired our word "cipher." India was the first culture to consider zero to be a numeral, rather than a mere placeholder.

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If someone is "zooming" down the highway, what are they doing?
Crawling
Speeding
"Zoom" also means to move with a loud hum. That usage started in the 1880s. Also, on your computer screen or with your camera lens, you can zoom in on something to see in greater detail.
Blasting music
Stuck in traffic

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Why would a British child consider "zed" important?
It's the letter Z.
Americans would refer to this letter as "zee." The word "zed" comes from the Middle French "zede." It was first used in the 1200s.
It's a number.
It's a type of food.
It's a subject.

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If you "zap" something, what are you doing to it?
Walking it
Killing with sudden force
"Zap" is an Americanism that dates to the 1940s. It can also be used to indicate something occurred instantaneously or something was erased electronically. It's also one of those words that appears in superhero comics.
Having a conversation with it
Eating it

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What branch of science is "zoology"?
Study of planets
Study of chemicals
Study of plant life
Study of animal life
In the mid-1600s, the word "zoology" was coined. It comes from the New Latin "zoologia." Although the word sounds like it should mean "the study of zoos," it's actually "the study of animals."

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What type of aircraft is a "zeppelin"?
A helicopter
A jumbo jet
A rigid airship
The word "Zeppelin" was first used in the late 1800s. It comes from the inventor's name, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin. Zeppelins were held aloft by gas cells - which, unfortunately, were highly flammable.
A commuter plane

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What type of creature is a "zombie"?
A ghost
The walking dead
In 1819, "zombie" first appeared in English. It is of West African origin, but comes from the Haitian word "zombi." The first feature-length film about zombies, "White Zombie," was released in 1932.
A monster
A vampire

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When someone describes the "zeitgeist," what are they referring to?
The cultural climate of an era
In the middle of the 19th century, English first borrowed the term "zeitgeist." It is a combination of two German words: "Zeit" and "Geist." Zeit means "time," while Geist means "spirit."
The experiences of students
The atmosphere at work
The time of day

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Why might a chess player be upset about making a "zugzwang"?
The move will put them at a disadvantage.
In the early 1900s, the word entered English. It comes from the German word "Zug," which means "move," and "Zwang," which means "compulsion."
It's the last move of the game.
They will automatically lose.
They have been caught cheating.

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If a metalworker is "zincifying" something, what are they doing?
Using a blowtorch
Melting metal
Bonding metal together
Coating it with zinc
"Zincify" was first recorded in the late 1700s or early 1800s. It is simply a combination of the metal zinc and the suffix "-fy," which means "to make."

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You may know your zodiac sign, but what does "zodiac" refer to?
An imaginary friend that no longer exists
The planets in the solar system
An imaginary band in the sky that is divided into 12 constellations
"Zodiac" in its astrological sense entered English in the 14th century. It is derived from the Latin word "zodiacus" and literally means "circle of little animals." Libra, interestingly, is not an animal at all.
A belief in the unprovable

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If you're completely "zonked," what are you?
Excited
Exhausted
"Zonked" entered English in the late 1940s. Originally, it meant stupefied by drugs or high. The word is often combined with "out," as in, "zonked out."
Bored
Merry

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If something is "zooty," why does it stand out?
It's flashy.
"Zooty" was first recorded in 1942. It refers to the style a zoot-suiter dressed in. A zoot suit consisted of a thigh-length jacket with wide padded shoulders and peg pants. If you're zooty, you're flashy.
It's ugly.
It's beautiful.
It's large.

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What type of footwear is a "zori"?
Slipper
Dutch clogs
Japanese sandal
"Zori" entered English in the 1800s. It refers specifically to a flat thonged sandal. The sandal is usually made with straw, cloth, leather or rubber.
High-heeled shoes

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What type of handheld instrument are "zills"?
Maracas
An electric guitar
A triangle
Finger cymbals
"Zills" entered English in the mid-1960s. The word mostly likely comes from the Turkish word "zil," which means bell or cymbals. Belly dancers often use zills.

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What type of ancient structure is a "ziggurat"?
A Sumerian temple
A ziggurat is a Mesopotamian temple tower that is shaped like a square pyramid, with a shrine at the top. It comes from the Akkadian language, which had the word "ziqqurratu."
An Egyptian pyramid
An Aztec pueblo
Ancient French ruins

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What does a "ziplock" bag have?
An interlocking groove and ridge
"Ziplock" became popular in the 1980s. It comes from the brand Ziploc, which was the first to trademark a plastic bag with this type of seal.
A hole
Multiple pockets
A tie

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Why would you freak out if you found a "zit" on your face before prom?
It's a birthmark.
It's a pimple.
The origin of the word "zit" is unknown. However, it entered English in the mid-1960s. Teenagers all over the world hate zits, of course.
It's a tear.
It's a tattoo.

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What type of instrument is a "zither"?
A trombone
A flute
A piano
A flat stringed instrument
A zither is a stringed instrument with 30 to 40 strings over a soundboard. It is played with a pick or the fingers. The word entered English in the mid-1800s. It comes from the Old High German word "zitara," which is derived from the Latin "cithara."

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In which alphabet will you find the letter "zeta"?
Spanish
English
Chinese
Greek
Zeta is the sixth letter of the Greek alphabet. In the 1820s, the name for the letter entered English. The Greek alphabet has 24 letters and seven vowels.

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If you're reading a "zine," what are you looking at?
Novel
Magazine
"Zine" is a shortening of fanzine. It entered English in 1965. The word specifically refers to a homemade publication devoted to a specialized subject matter, although some people use it to describe any magazine.
Textbook
Pamphlet

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If something is "zany," what is it?
Bad
Absurd
Originally, a "zany" was a background clown in a performance who comically mimicked the act of the main cast member. "Zany" entered English from Italian with this meaning in the 1500s.
Family friendly
Entertaining

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