Can You Define These Words Without Using a Dictionary?


By: Olivia Cantor

6 Min Quiz

Image: John Sommer/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

In our daily lives, we use many words, but do we truly know their exact definitions? In any line of work, we may hear certain common words repeated often, but are they used in the proper context? It is actually a common occurrence in life that people tend to misuse certain words, and they also mix up terms from time to time. With so many words to remember in the English language, it's natural for people to get confused from time to time. 

But, it's a totally different thing if a person keeps misusing a certain word because they don't exactly know its real meaning. Sometimes in a show of false camaraderie, people who are more knowledgeable about those mistaken words just keep quiet and don't correct the erring party.

Maybe it would be better if people just regularly enhanced their vocabulary. In the information age, knowledge is our most significant currency of transaction, and words are the tools that help us succeed with those transactions. So, it's better to know many words, and it won't hurt if we learned new ones from time to time.

Ready to learn anew? Let's see if you can guess the proper meaning of these very common words. They might appear simple, but do you really know how to define them accurately? Take the quiz and see!

To say that we see the "silhouette" means we're seeing what?

A silhouette refers to the outline of a particular object, person or anything, really. Usually, a silhouette is formed when the object or person is lit up from the back, rendering the front part in shadow. It's that front part that people see, shaded in black but outlined by the light.


When we refer to an "ensemble," what are we talking about?

"Ensemble" is a term that can pertain to a group of people, a collection of things such as the totality of a person's wardrobe or basically some small parts that can be taken as a whole. The word is actually French in origin, which means "together."


To feel "nonchalant" about a situation means what, exactly?

When someone is feeling nonchalant about something, that means they are being calm and collected to the point of being unconcerned, dispassionate, detached and even apathetic. So, it's like an unemotional response to something.


Doctors sometime say our pupils "dilate." What do they mean?

The pupils of our eyes dilate under certain conditions, meaning they appear wider or they look like they're expanding. Sometimes, that's not a good thing, though, so we have to check our health status ASAP.


If we don't "kowtow" to our boss, what are we not doing?

"Kowtow" is a word that originated in China, which literally means to knock a person's head. So, it also means you are acting submissive when you kowtow, as you are showing that you are very servile. You don't kowtow when you refuse to be submissive.


To be described as "mediocre" is a bad thing. True or false?

To put it mildly, mediocre means being dull, ordinary, average or just plain moderate. But it could also push the boundary of this meaning, as it could also refer to something that is very poor and inferior in quality. So, that's actually a bad thing.


When we get a "bogus" item, what do we have?

The word bogus has a negative connotation since it means fake or counterfeit, or it refers to a sham. In slang terms, though, it could mean more than that, since it also pertains to something uncool or even disgusting.


A person declares to be "impartial" about an issue. Where does that person stand on things, then?

An impartial person is someone who can give a balanced, fair or just assessment of things. Therefore, if someone says they are impartial about an issue, that means they are not biased in opinion as they are in the middle of it where they refuse to take sides.


What is a person doing when they "flaunt?"

When someone flaunts something in front of others, say a personal item they acquired, their fashion style or even just themselves, that means they are showing off. They're displaying somewhat excessively to the point of being like a peacock parading itself.


Writing something in an "anonymous" way means what, exactly?

When we encounter a quote or a piece of written material that says it was written anonymously, that means we don't know who the author is. In the digital age this is a fairly common term, especially for people who create anonymous social media accounts.


A "glutton" is someone who does what particular action in excess?

Gluttony is considered one of the seven deadly sins because it shows an excessive and already unhealthy way of overeating. It can also apply to drinking. If you're not yet crossing any excessive line, you can be considered a gourmand or a chowhound instead.


When the authorities "quell" a disturbance, what are they doing?

To quell a disturbance means authorities are trying to subdue it or even trying to stop it from continuing or from growing bigger. While the aim is to quiet the surroundings, sometimes this action could rouse even more noise.


To "profess" is to do what bold action?

To profess means to openly and boldly declare or admit something, like when a person professes their love for another. The act of professing could be done in a public space or in a private one, since claiming or declaring is the act that's referred to here regardless of the size of the audience.


If the windows are "opaque," could we see through them?

We cannot see through something that is opaque because that surface won't let the light pass through it. So if windows are opaque, that means they are not transparent enough to see a view of the outside.


When two items are "transposed," what exactly happened to them?

To transpose items means to switch their places, meaning they got transferred positions. The term is commonly used in many math lessons, notably in Algebra. The term "interchange" could also be used as a synonym here.


A person is considered your "colleague" when you share which particular thing?

A colleague is someone you work with, which you could also refer to as an associate, a co-worker or an officemate. If you harmoniously work together, then you are being collegial to one another. It can also refer to a peer, but that term pertains more to camaraderie outside of one's profession.


Someone who "recuperates" is doing what?

A person who is sick or exhausted is said to be recuperating when they are resting to help them regain their strength and health. It could also pertain to the act of restoring one's losses in the financial sense.


When you "invoke," what kind of action are you exercising?

To invoke is calling upon a higher being, usually invoking the name or the persona of a specific god or deity. It's like calling upon them to help you down here on earth. You can also invoke concepts that could legally hold or bind, like invoking your rights or invoking a specific law.


Wreaking "havoc" means to do which course of action?

To wreak havoc means to bring humongous levels of damage and destruction, which naturally leads to great devastation. While natural disasters such as storms or hurricanes are the usual concepts associated with the idea of wreaking havoc, sometimes it can refer to people, too.


Can an "indisposed" person attend a party?

A person who cannot attend a function because of being indisposed is ill or a bit sick. It could also refer to a state of being detached to help or assist, showing some form of unwillingness.


Being "pensive" means a person is doing what particular action?

To be pensive is to be in a rather meditative, thoughtful or reflective mood, or contemplative in nature. The word can also refer to being wistful or to express thoughtfulness. This word has a Latin origin.


A woman described as "demure" means what?

A demure person is often shy, quite reserved and modest. In a way, she has a meek and mild-mannered demeanor, which means she also acts in a prim and proper way and appears humble or even prudish. Some people take this as a positive description, while some see it as a negative one.


If something is "vital," what is its rank of importance?

When something or someone is considered vital, that means the person or the thing referred to is very, very important in the grand scheme of things. Its value is therefore indispensable, crucially needed and critical to the existence of a particular system.


Why would you give someone an "ultimatum?"

An ultimatum is like a threat that you give someone, usually a structured one in the form of a proposal, final statement or a set of final conditions to follow before you take further action. It's like you're demanding something from a person, like a debt payment or something similar.


Celebrities are often "lionized." What does that mean?

The word lionize obviously has the root word "lion" in there, and we all know that a lion has the automatic stature of being "king of the jungle." Therefore, to lionize someone is to treat them like they're a king, like they're larger than life or like they're celebrities who are glorified.


To "emancipate" the oppressed means to do what?

To emancipate is to free someone from bondage or oppression, meaning to liberate them from being unjustly treated. It could refer to a kind of unfair practice that disenfranchises one party.


When you "feign" ignorance, what did you just do?

"Feign" means to bluff your way in, or you faked it 'til you made it, so to speak. It can also refer to a very deceptive imitation or a fictitious representation wherein one puts on some sort of appearance to intentionally deceive other people.


Does "chagrin" connote a positive or a negative concept?

To feel some form of chagrin is not a very positive thing, so it's considered a negative concept. It means one is experiencing some feeling of being vexed, dismayed, annoyed or just getting plain upset.


If you're the "bane" of someone's existence, what are you, exactly?

To be labeled as the bane of someone's existence means that you are a burden to them, or you always spoil or ruin some situation. Others may want to pull the welcome mat out from underneath your feet. So, you're some kind of trouble that people want to avoid.


What does it mean when you are described as "grotesque?"

Grotesque refers to something distorted, weird, bizarre or even hideous. It could also mean that a concept is absurd, freakish or odd and outlandish. It can border on being preposterous or ridiculous and abnormal.


Grandmas always love citing an "adage." What is that?

An adage is a proverb or a saying about some aspect of life. It can also refer to a motto of how one could live life or enjoy its aspects. Other terms that also hold the same meaning are axiom, maxim, dictum and aphorism.


If the smell of the food could "whet" your appetite, is that a good sign?

To whet your appetite means to stimulate it, so it's like enhancing the expectations or enticing someone to be excited about the food they will eat. But it doesn't solely pertain to food, as an appetite could be whet by other philosophical concepts or psychological stimuli.


Is an "heirloom" priceless?

An heirloom is considered priceless because it is some kind of possession or object that is handed down in a family from one generation to the next generation. It could be made of something precious or it could also be just an ordinary object that has huge sentimental value to the family.


If you're speaking in "jargon," what did you just say?

"Jargon" refers to highly specialized vocabulary that is extensively used by a specific set of people, such as those who work in a particular industry, profession or trade. Therefore, different kinds of jargon will not be easily understood by the general population.


"Xenophobia" is the fear of what?

Xenophobia refers to a person's unjust fear or unfair hatred of people who appear foreign to them or people who come from a different culture than them. It could also pertain to some form of irrational fear against strangers in general. It's also a form of racism, in a way.


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