Can You Identify More Than 11 of These Old-Timey Words Written in Cursive?

By: Amanda Monell
Estimated Completion Time
5 min
Can You Identify More Than 11 of These Old-Timey Words Written in Cursive?
Image: HowStuffWorks / Kristy Tucker

About This Quiz

When it comes to listening to public speakers, do you find yourself more interested in those who speak with a broad vocabulary?  Doesn't it make them seem more intelligent in their field?  If so, it shouldn't surprise you that in addition to mathematics, a large vocabulary is one of the signs of high intelligence. However, it should be noted that having a large vocabulary isn't enough. Appreciating the small nuances of these words is also pivotal to being an articulate person. Many professions benefit from having a large vocabulary. Can you imagine going to a class and the professor stammers through a lecture, and when not speaking, the language was so simple, you may consider that the professor has been dumbing down the class?  How about writers?  Their voices and rhythm can be hard to follow if you pick up one of their novels.

Every year, a committee at the Concise Oxford English Dictionary gathers to discuss words that need to be added and to determine which words are obsolete. In 2018, 850 words were added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Some of these words include wordie (someone who loves words), cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, Schnoodle. Do you consider yourself a wordie?  Do you love to read books to appreciate the small nuances of words?  Let's see if you can guess these words written in cursive!

1 bodkin Today, if you held one of these when you went through airport security, you'd probably be detained. What is it?
Bootstrap
Bodkin
Used in the 1800s, a bodkin was a synonym for a dagger or stiletto. It is also a needle with a blunt edge with a large hole for driving a ribbon through a hem.
Baseball
Balloon

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2 bridewell If you were accused of committing a crime, you'd never want to go here. Where is it?
Burgess
Burrow
Bridewell
In the mid-1600s, the word bridewell was used to describe a prison, usually for petty offenders. Its roots originate in England, where a building (originally royal housing) was converted into a hospital, and later into a prison. This building was located near St. Bridget's Well.
Bridle

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3 zounds A synonym for gadzooks, you'd never want to say this to anyone, at least not in the 1600s. What word is it?
Zounds
Sounding pretty innocent today, zounds was actually a curse in reference to Jesus Christ's Crucifixion. In particular, it was to wish the injuries that Christ endured on the cross on others.
Zane
Queen
Quiver

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4 magdalen If you were dating a woman who was a former prostitute, you would be dating one of these. What would you call her?
Magazine
Magdalen
With its roots in the late 1500s, a magdalen took its name from Mary Magdalene, a follower of Christ. This word could also be used to describe a halfway house (a home for reformed prostitutes).
Modish
Mogwai

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5 izzard A French variation of the word et zed, this word means the letter Z. Which alphabetical reference is it?
Jinkies
Jarl
Izba
Izzard
Not only is izzard the word for the letter z, it is also the last name of famed comedian Eddie Izzard. Eddie is not only a comedian, he's also a political activist and writer.

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6 bumper After a rough day at work, you stop into a bar to have one of these. What is it?
Burner
Bumper
Today, when you hear bumper, you usually think of a car part. However, in 1677, a bumper usually meant a large glass of alcohol. In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, this meaning of bumper comes before the car part.
Rubber
Rambler

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7 cicisbeo Did you know that Catherine the Great had 22 lovers? What would be the old timey word to describe them?
Either
Ether
Cicisbeo
With Italian roots, cicisbeo was (and still is) used to describe the male lovers of married women. It made its first appearance in the early 1700s. The plural of this word is cicisbei.
Cicadia

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8 camelopard As one of the most exotic creatures on the planet, the giraffe is also known as one of these. What is its other name?
Candlelight
Camelopard
A combination of two words from Greek, kamēlos meaning camel and pardalis meaning leopard, Latin scholars created camelopard. It came into use in the 14th century. Maybe it was because of the camel's unique shape and the leopard's spotted coat.
Cannery
Camera

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9 crookback Igor, Dr. Frankenstein's assistant, is known for having a hunched back. What would be another word for hunchback?
Crawled
Creeper
Crookback
Kyphosis, the disease that causes hunched backs is caused by either a birth deformity, arthritis, or osteoporosis. When women have this hunch, it is usually referred to as a dowager's hump.
Crocodile

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10 darbies When entering a court, criminals are usually seen wearing these. What accessory is it?
Dowagers
Damsels
Darties
Darbies
Darbies, another word for handcuffs, has English roots. A variant of the obsolete word, Derbies (meaning father's bonds), signifies the rigid indebtedness that one has to their fathers.

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11 delate When you have an intruder, you'll probably end up filing a police report. What is another word for that activity?
Dilly
Delicate
Delate
Many of our words are a variant of Latin words. In the case of delate, it comes from the Latin word delatus and was first used in the 15th century.
Delight

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12 froward At every job, you will usually run into someone who is difficult to work with. What could you use to describe them?
Toward
Froth
Froward
The word froward means disobedient or contrary behavior. In middle English, froward was the opposite of toward. Toward meant (and still means) to move to a person, whereas froward means to face or move away from a person.
Trounce

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13 grimalkin Half of American households have one of these living in them. What is it?
Stingray
Grimalkin
Grimalkin was one of the words that Shakespeare had a hand in creating: in one scene of "Macbeth," a witch told her cat, Graymalkin, that she was arriving. In the 1630s, the spelling changed to its modern use.
Streetsweep
Gremlin

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14 herbary Today, many people grow herbs for their home use. What is an old timey word for a place that grows herbs?
Hilt
Herbary
While there is no origin date for the word herbary, it is similar to many other words that describe locations that hold things: for example, a library is a place that holds books.
Heiress
Hairy

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15 jade Considered one of the most valued stones in the world, this green stone is often used in Asian art. What is it?
Jackfruit
Jarl
Jade
While jade is considered a valuable stone by many collectors, it didn't always mean something of value. Sometime ago in England (it is unknown when), the word jade meant broken down horse. It was later used to describe an ill-tempered woman.
Jail

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16 bruit The neighborhood or office gossip is usually is guilty of spreading rumors, sometimes unintentionally. Which of these words is a synonym for a rumor?
Built
Bruit
Bruit, a synonym for a rumor or report, was first used in the 15th century and is an Anglo-French word meaning noise. So next time there's a big party at the water cooler, maybe you can ask the group to stop bruiting.
Bran
Bramble

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17 dot Today, this word is associated with patterns and specks. What word is it?
Dot
First used in 1855, if you were going to get married, you wouldn't want to be offering or getting offered a dot. When this happened, it would mean the dowry wasn't very large: probably the size of the father's paycheck.
Dad
Dam
Dog

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18 fandangle When something has all the bells and whistles, it could be considered ornate. Which of these words means ornate or unnecessary?
Fantasy
Fandangle
If you have a Christmas tree, you can easily describe some of your fancier ornaments as fandangles. It is unknown when this word started being used, and some consider it to be an alternative use of the word fandango.
Fought
Fight

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19 feminal For some women, being called feminine is considered a compliment. What is a word that would also pass for the same compliment?
Femur
Fair
Feminal
It is unknown when feminal became popular. However, it is considered a complement to many women. Just like the word feminine, feminal can become a noun (feminality) or a plural noun (feminales).
Famous

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20 fizgig Today, it a type of firework that hisses and spits out sparks. Back in the day, it was a word for a flirtatious woman. What is this word?
Fisher
Fizgig
The word fizgig may also be familiar to some of you '80s babies out there. Even though it is misspelled, Fizzgig was a cute little sprout of a character in the '80s film, "The Dark Crystal."
Futzing
Figure

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21 gage This word is a homonym for a word used as a unit of measure. What word is it?
Grain
Strain
Gage
When it comes to the word gage, many are divided on how to use it. Some use it as a homonym for the word gauge. However, Merriam-Webster encourages users to use the form of gage with the 'u' (gauge). Back in the day, a gage was a token of defiance, something like a glove being thrown on the ground for a duel.
Gouge

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22 frore If you don't eat ice cream when you first pull it from the freezer, it will be a soupy mess. Which of these words would describe your frozen cream?
Frame
Frore
Popsicles and ice cream are best eaten in a frore state. It was first used in the 13th century and has its roots in Middle English from froren, which took its roots from the old English word frēosan.
Frothy
Frazzle

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23 garth In the movie, "Wayne's World," his best friend bore a name whose meaning was grove or garden. What is it?
Gamer
Garth
Another famous Garth? Garth Brooks, a country musician who got his start in the late 1980s. Today, his current net worth is around $330 million, with a $90 million salary.
Gomer
Goad

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24 intelligencer Ian Fleming's James Bond and Robert Ludlum's Jason Bourne​ are fictional spies known the world over. If you wanted to be creative, what is another word you'd call them?
Intelligencer
Intelligencer became a word around 1540. However, the definition was a bit broader than just using it on spies. There are many other people who can give information without losing their lives.
Introducer
Interior
Insurgent

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25 jakes This word is not only a boy's name, but it is a synonym for an outhouse. What is it?
Joins
Jakes
In the United States, about 2 million people either live in a place where plumbing doesn't exist, or where it is impossible to get running water. Be sure to check your potty options before renting a hotel room.
Jacks
Jocks

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26 kickshaw When you go to a fancy bistro, you may come across these kind of dishes. What kind of dishes are we talking about.
Kickshaw.
If you've ever been to a party with a chocolate fountain, you've been privy to a kickshaw. A kickshaw is a delicacy or fancily prepared dish. So next time you eat your rack of lamb with meat rub or chocolate mousse, know you're eating a kickshaw.
Kickstand.
Killswitch.
Killer.

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27 lucifer When you're celebrating a birthday, you'll probably need to use some matches to light the candles on the cake. What's another word for matches?
Lighter
Lucent
Lucifer
Lucifers are basically any of the matches you see in stores today: friction matches that have an active ingredient at the tips that help light them. Just don't call them lucifers at a dinner with a religious friend!
Lantern

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28 otiose Sundays are usually lazy days where laundry is done. Aside from slothful, which of these words would describe your behavior?
Otiose
The word otiose made its first appearance in 1795, however, its definition was something a little different than its use today: it was an object that was unnecessary and useless.
Otterlike
Aloof
Altered

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29 popinjay Aside from a spyglass, a parrot could be considered a pirate's best friend. What is another word for these multicolored birds?
Poplar
Poppy
Popinjay
A Middle French word, popinjay was used to describe the ornate and exotic nature of a parrot. However, today, it is used to describe a person who struts around unnecessarily.
Perilously

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30 pismire If you're going on a picnic, a trail of ants is one of the last things you're going to want to see. What is a bigger word for this tiny insect?
Pismire
Apparently, people in the 1300s weren't pleased when ants invaded their meals either. Instead of just saying ant, they used pismire, derived from a combination of two words: pisse, meaning urine, and mire, meaning ant.
Princess
Pristine
Pustule​

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31 posy For weddings, many couples inscribe sayings or initials on the inside of their rings. What is another word for this specific activity?
Poet
Posy
The inscripton of a word, declaration of love, or poem is called a posy. Based in the 15th century, this word is an alternative spelling of poesy. It is actually the first definition in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary for this word. The second? A bouquet of flowers.
Pearl
Pert

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32 mummer Brad Pitt, Jane Fonda, Cathy Bates, Robert Redford and many others are considered decent actors. What is another word for an actor?
Mammy
Mummer
Making its first appearance in the 1400s, a mummer was originally someone who performed pantomime. However, that definition eventually ballooned out to include all types of acting. Another meaning? To go to a party in disguise. So on Halloween night, when you go to your parties dressed in costume, enjoy being a mummer.
Number
Mother

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33 overbrim Sometimes, when we leave toddlers up to filling glasses, things could get really messy really fast. Aside from disastrous, what word describes when you fill a cup up too much?
Overeat
Overlord
Overfull
Overbrim
This word is pretty self-explanatory. Each cup has a brim and when you overfill it, the liquid goes over the brim!

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34 peterman ​When it comes to robbing a bank's vault, it is always good to hire a safe cracker. What is another word that the safe cracker could use to describe his profession?
Piperman
Peterman
In the 1990s, the show, "Seinfeld," had its own Peterman: Elaine Benes's boss was named J. Peterman. This absurd character was played by John O'Hurley, who would often be found lounging in his fictitious office when he wasn't needed between scenes.
Petter
Pipper

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35 pythoness If you visit a fortuneteller, you may be visiting one of these. What is another word for a fortuneteller?
Princess
Bystander
Pythoness
In the 14th century, many would call a fortuneteller or Oracle a pythoness. Why? Because its roots are Greek. Some believe that pythoness is named after the spirit, Pythōn, who practiced divination. Another theory is that it is actually named after the seat in which the Oracle of Delphi sat.
Pyrenees​

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36 riband In school, when it is picture day, little girls will sometimes wear ribbons in their hair. What is another word for these types of ribbons?
Rivet
Riband
While ribbons play many roles in fashion, a riband has absolutely no purpose at all, aside from sitting still and looking pretty. It made its appearance in the 15th century and was a variant of the Middle English word, riban.
Rivulet
Riled

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37 rover When pirates set out to sail the seven seas, they would often be considered one of these. What is another word for a pirate?
Rover
A rover is another word for a pirate. Its origins go back to Middle Dutch, where roven meant to rob. Perhaps that's why so many dogs are named Rover: they steal our hearts!
Raver
Rever
Ruber

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38 salamander Today, if you come home to your significant other who complains about being around a hot stove all day, maybe you can suggest that they use this word. What is another word for a stove or cooking utensil?
Seller
Salamander
Perhaps named after a mythical animal that is impervious to flame, the salamander can be used to refer to a portable stove, a cooking device with a broiler, or even a cooking utensil used for browning food. It was first used in the 14th century and it has roots in both middle French and Latin languages.
Salads
Saltpeter

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39 tapster You're going out with your friends to celebrate a promotion. While you order your drinks from a bartender, you realize you could call them this.​ What is another word for a barkeep?
Tooter
Tapster
This is an insanely old word (etymologists place it before the 12th century) and the origins of tapster are unknown. It may make sense, though. Usually a visit to a bartender doesn't end up with clear memories!
Tapas
Tutor

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40 timbrel Musicians will often add a tambourine to their music to create a more surreal experience. What is another word for the jangling instrument?
Tamtam
Tambrel​
Timbrel
First used in around 1520, the word timbrel came from the obsolete English word timbre, meaning small drum. However, like many words in this quiz, timbre has had its definition changed to represent the sound that the tambourines make. Pretty cool, huh?
Tomboy

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