Can You Get an “A” on This Spelling Test for Words That Start With “A”?

Torrance Grey

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About This Quiz

"A" is a marvelous letter. Derived from the Greek letter "alpha," it's both the first letter and the first vowel of the English alphabet. It can stand alone as a word, as the indefinite article "a." Only "O" used to have similar status, as an interjection ("O! I am slain!"), but that's changed with the modern addition of the letter "h," making it "O!" Now "A" stands alone!

"A" also has the power to change the meaning of a word to its opposite. Don't believe us? Consider the word "theist," meaning "believer in a supreme being." Changed to "atheist," it suddenly means "nonbeliever in a god or gods." This letter has a superpower! "A' is also a vital component of the Latin prefixes "ab-" and "ad-", meaning "toward" and "away from." This is one reason that many "A" words in the English language start with "ab" or "ad," like "absent" or "advent." 

If you're ready to tackle a spelling challenge involving this rock-star letter, we've created a quiz to let you do just that! 

Note: We'd like to acknowledge our debt to both the World Book Dictionary (a print reference) and the Merriam-Webster website; the latter in particular is highly recommended for people who want to become more articulate or to understand the English language better. 

Which of these spellings, for a medical condition, is correct?

Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints. People think of the elderly when they think of arthritis, but it can present during "prime age" if an infection or autoimmune dysfunction is at play. If you have joint pain that doesn't resolve promptly, see a doctor!

Today, you're "salty" and "snarky," but back in the 80s, they'd have said you have a major _______.

"Attitude" in general refers to one's emotional mindset and approach to something (for example, a task). But in the 1980s, it gained an alternate meaning: "having an attitude" always meant a bad one. The prior, adjective-dependent meaning didn't disappear, but having a stand-alone "attitude" is not a good thing.

Which of these is the right spelling for a word meaning "uncontrollable desire for a substance or thing"?

Addiction is probably as old as humankind. But the A word for it has become very popular in recent decades, giving rise to the informal terms "addictionology" and "addictionologist" (celebrity psychiatrist Dr. Drew Pinsky is often defined this way).

The place where someone lives is often called what?

This word means "a home or dwelling." You might have heard the phrase, "Welcome to my humble abode." Or, as hack comedians sometimes say, "my humble commode." (Sorry!)

Which of these is the right spelling of the word for "good enough"?

"Adequate" is perhaps our favorite word in this quiz, because it's so easy to define: "good enough" is good enough. The dictionary adds synonyms like "satisfactory" and "sufficient," which you might throw in for variety if you're dealing with quite a few adequate people (they are everywhere!).

If you want a job, you might turn in what?

This noun has several meanings: a computer program, a request for a job, a dose of a cream or ointment ... But our favorite, perhaps, is the antiquated one Mary Shelley uses repeatedly in "Frankenstein." Victor Frankenstein says he has "the gift of application," by which he means initiative or "self-starterhood."

An ________ is an interesting, challenging and maybe risky episode.

This word is derived from the Latin words "ad" meaning "to, toward" and "venire," for "come," which sounds rather simple in comparison to what the word "adventure" suggests to us. The element of risk or thrill is evidently a recent development, or just arriving at work would be an "adventure"!

Which of these is the right way to spell a part of speech?

Adverbs are an essential part of a writer's toolbox, like the other seven parts of speech. They get a bad rap because of the tendency of certain adverbs to go platinum, like "totally" in the '80s and "super" today. Hence the rise of "adverb shaming" by people who say they "almost never use adverbs."

This word means " to outlaw or suppress."

"Abolish" is often used in legal or legislative contexts. "Abolition," the noun form, is the standard term used for America's outlawing of slavery in the mid-19th-century. Just prior to that was a time when America had a number of "abolitionist" newspapers, which carried the news, but with a strong anti-slavery editorial slant.

Which of these is the correct spelling for a term used in aviation?

"Altitude" refers to a plane's (or other craft's) distance from the ground. Mountain peaks also have altitude, in which case it is defined as distance from sea level. Everest, for example, has an altitude of about 29,000 feet -- high enough to require most climbers to use oxygen.

A book that has been shortened for the convenience of the reader is said to have been what?

"Abridged" and "unabridged" are common terms in publishing. Audiobooks are often abridged, in order not to create hours upon hours of listening time. For people stationed in Antarctica, or manning fire-lookout towers, there are usually unabridged versions as well.

The opposite of "relative" is which of these?

Your first thought might have been that the opposite of "relative" is "stranger." But we're using the adjective form: "absolute" is total and can't be argued with; "relative" is flexible. You find this usage often in mathematics and in philosophy.

Something that lives underwater can be called ...

This word comes, of course, from the Latin for water, or "aqua." It is often used in biology, to describe plants and animals which live in bodies of water: oceans, seas, lakes and similar.

Pick the adjective meaning "related to or in the air"?

Fun fact: While "aerial" is pronounced with three syllables in most contexts -- "aerial" surveillance -- the preferred pronunciation in literary contexts. In a poem, for example, the meter might be thrown off if the reader doesn't use all four syllables.

Someone you know, who is not quite a friend, is what?

"Acquaintance" describes someone with whom you have a surface relationship -- they are not a friend, enemy, colleague, etc. Whenever we hear the word, we think of Peggy Hill, on "King of the Hill," winning a Boggle tournament with the word "acquaintanceship."

The arrival or debut of something is its what?

Observant Christians might know this one from the season of Advent on the ecclesiastical calendar. This is the season building up to Christmas, the day that marks off the coming of Christ to the world as a human being. Some of us just know this usage from advent calendars or advent wreaths, sometimes made at church craft fairs.

Another word meaning "forebears" is what?

"Ancestors" is the word you default to when you don't want to use multiple "greats" or don't know how many "greats" would apply. In fact, the longer we look at the word "forebears," the weirder it appears to us ... we're voting for the use of "ancestors" across the board.

Which one of these is a word for "an offensive act"?

You sometimes hear this word used in its adjective form, "affronted." Or as "an affront to common decency," a term that comes up in essays and op-ed pieces -- more and more often since 2016. (We won't speculate on why).

Which of these is the correct spelling for a word meaning "a motive or plan"?

Meetings usually have "agendas." Fun fact: Traditionally, "agenda" was plural; the singular was "agendum." But this has fallen out of favor so much that using "agenda" as a plural would now be considered wrong.

Which of these is the right spelling for a word meaning "partner in crime"?

An "accomplice" is someone who aids another in the commission of a crime. True, "accomplish" is correctly spelled, but it's an entirely different word, meaning "to achieve or satisfy." Better to "accomplish" than to be an "accomplice."

A person without a goal or plan is which of these?

Naturally, the root word here is "aim," in its meaning of "intention" or "plan." "Aimless" is a word that was put into use a lot in articles about Generation X in their youth, reflecting a lack of ambition or life direction.

One of these is a word for the production of plant food. Which is it?

You're probably not surprised to learn that this one comes from Latin. The Latin word for field or land is "ager," and "cultura" is "cultivation." Agricultural science is an increasingly popular subject at universities -- compared to decades past, it is increasingly common for a farmer to have a degree in this, uh, field.

Which of these is the right way to spell a word meaning "inclined to fight or do harm"?

"Aggressive" is a term frequently applied to animals: "All tigers, even in captivity, should be seen as aggressive." The verb form, "agress," has gained favor in dog-rescue circles and at parks: "Your dog aggressed on mine."

What is the correct spelling of this name for a seabird?

The albatross is a web-footed seabird with a wide wingspan. It was made famous by the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," in which a sailor's entire ship and crew are punished for his murder of an albatross.

A car with lines that minimize drag is what?

Aerodynamic design is essential in the world of auto racing. In retail/production cars, aerodynamic design goes in and out of style -- the '90s and 2000s saw a boom in boxy cars, despite the lower gas mileage. It's fashion!

Choose the correct spelling for "pacify or be conciliatory."

A popular use of this word has to do with guilt: "I was trying to appease my conscience." In popular psychology, too, an appeaser is someone who gives in too much (for example, to bullies), often out of fear of getting hurt or verbally browbeaten.

Which of these is the right way to spell a word for a legal document?

An affidavit is a sworn oath, almost always in writing. The oath can cover a variety of legal subjects; there's no one field to which it is particularly applicable. Be warned, too: To lie in an affidavit is a prosecutable offense.

One of these is a word for "the opposite of rest." Which one?

"Activity" is a word that's often used, but is tricky to spell. It's also a particularly broad word in its application: It can be used about exercise, criminal endeavors, events in assisted-living facilities ... the list goes on and on.

Another word for "malady" is what?

An "ailment" is an illness. You'll often hear the verb form when people say a certain remedy is "good for what ails you." One of the other choices, "aliment," is correctly spelled -- but it means something edible, a form of nutrition.

An animal often confused with a crocodile is a what?

Alligators have U-shaped snouts, while crocodiles' are V-shaped. And alligators prefer freshwater habitats to saltwater, that of crocodiles. Who knew you'd learn some animal science from a spelling quiz? (Thanks to the Live Science website for these facts).

One of these is the correct way to spell a word meaning "the opposite of homeopathic." Which is it?

Samuel Hahnemann coined the term "allopathy" for evidence-based medicine. This was in the early 19th century, the same time that he created the entire system of homeopathy. Users of homeopathic medicines might tell you that these terms are about as old as medicine itself, but that's just not true.

A word meaning "promptness or willingness" is what?

"Alacrity" usually refers to promptness, or haste in getting something done. It has a secondary meaning, or connotation, of cheerfulness in performing a task. So if your boss said you did something "with alacrity," good news: It's likely he or she is pleased.

The study of humans and their societies is called what?

Merriam-Webster goes further, calling it "the study of human beings and their ancestors through time and space, and in relation to physical character, environment and social relations." Wow! Also, we apologize for sneaking in "Anthropologie," the clothing and home decor store!

A person who is skilled at something is also called ____.

"Adept" is a great synonym for "highly skilled," and -- we think -- too rarely used. (So is "adroit," which would have made a good addition to this quiz). "Adept" can also be a noun form: "An adept at home repair." This, however, is a less-common use.

Which of these is a form of divination done by observing a rooster picking up grains?

Don't worry; we didn't seriously expect you to know this one. But once we learned that "alectryomancy" was really a thing, we felt the need to share this rare word with you. The ancients believed some weird stuff!

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