Do You Have The Vocabulary Level of a Harvard Grad?


By: Allison Lips

6 Min Quiz

Image: Image Source/DigitalVision/GettyImages

About This Quiz

Due to the complex nature of language, it's difficult to determine with certainty which language has the most words, but the title probably belongs to English. Because of its diverse heritage, English also has a seemingly endless supply of synonyms. While you may feel like all these words solely exist so the College Board has material to use on the SATs, you'd be incorrect. English's malleability and adaptability allow speakers to borrow words from many languages during their quest for the perfect word for any given situation. 

English is constantly adding words as older ones fall out of favor. There are also words that only appear in legal documents or are used by people who want to feel smarter than everyone else. You might come across as insufferable if you stuffed every multi-syllabic word you know into a sentence. However, it is still fun to learn more complex and unusual words. It adds color to our sentences. 

If you enjoy having fun with language, this quiz is for you! Find out whether you are a vocabulary expert or if you need to read a dictionary! 

If a salmon spawns, what is it doing?

"Spawn" entered English in the 1400s. It comes from the Old French word "espaundre" which means to expand. It's almost always used in the context of animal eggs, both as a noun as a verb. For instance, a salmon may spawn (spread eggs,) which in turn produces spawn (offspring.)


Why would you trust research done by someone who is scrupulous?

In Latin, a "scrupulus" was a unit of weight. The current word comes from the Middle English "scrupil."


What does it mean to repudiate something?

In the 1500s, English writers used the verb "repudiate" to mean "to divorce." This origin comes from the Latin noun "repudium," which specifically refers to the rejecting of a spouse. It now has broader meaning and can be used to mean to reject anything.


If sleep eludes you, what does it do?

The earliest known usage of "elude" is form 1667. It was adapted from the Latin eludere. It has multiple meanings depending on context: evade, escape, fail to attain and fail to grasp are some examples.


What does it mean to rescind an offer?

"Rescind" evolved from the Latin verb "scindere," which means "to cut." Related words are "exscind" and "prescind." The former means "to cut off," whereas the latter means "to withdraw attention from."


When someone goes on a tirade, what are they doing?

The word "tirade" entered English in 1802. It comes from the Italian word "tirata," which means to shoot. It now means an extended and angry rant about someone or something.


What do you do if you condone something?

"Condone" first appeared in 1805. It meant to treat something as acceptable or harmless. It has roots in the Latin word "condonare," which means to absolve.


If you remain steadfast in your belief, you are what?

Before the 12th century, "steadfast" specifically referred to an object that could not be moved. The word originated as "stedefast" in Middle English. Now it means that someone is unwavering in something.


If a youth is uncouth, what characteristic do they display?

The definition for "uncouth" has changed over the years. It originally meant "familiar" or "known," but is rarely used that way anymore. It now describes someone who doesn't have any manners.


If there's discord between two people, what is going on?

"Discord" can be used as a noun or a verb. It also means a harsh-sounding combination of musical sounds.


When something is abated, what happens to it?

The word "abate" dates back to sometime between the 12th and 14th century. It was adapted from the Old French word "abatre," which means to "to reduce or put an end to."


If someone is quixotic, it's what?

"Quixotic" comes from the book, "Don Quixote," which was published in the 17th century. It was coined in the 18th century to describe unrealistic idealists who were like the title character, Don Quixote of La Mancha.


If you have a plethora of something, what do you have?

In 1541, the first use of "plethora" in English was documented. It comes from the Greek "plethora," which means fullness. It now can be used to describe anything one has an abundance of. For example, you might have a plethora of squash in your garden after planting more seeds than you should have.


When you describe someone as sage, they have a lot of what?

Both the herb and the synonym for wisdom entered English in the 14th century. While they both came from Anglo-French, the former comes from the Anglo-French word "sage." The latter originated in the Latin word "sapere," which means to be wise. Sagacity is something that comes with age.


Something that is taut doesn't have any what?

"Taut" has multiple meanings. Aside from meaning "pulled tight" and "not relaxed," it can also be used to describe something concise or succinct.


If something is motley, it's made up of what?

As an adjective, "motley" entered English in the 14th century. The word is also used to describe fabric with many colors. Now, it generally means a mix of unmatched things.


If you're describing an item in qualitative terms, what are you describing?

"Qualitative" has to do with things like appearance and value, rather than counting the amount of something (quantitative.) The first known use of "qualitative" is from 1607. Its origin is in the Latin word "qualitas," which means something's essential nature or character.


A liquid that is "viscous" has what consistency?

"Viscous" was first used in the 1300s. It has origins in the Latin word "viscosus." "Viscosus" means full of birdlime, which is a sticky substance used to trap birds (although it's illegal in many places.)


What does it mean when someone is lackadaisical?

Lackadaisical was first used in the 18th century. If someone is lackadaisical, it means they're lazy and lacking enthusiasm.


What does it mean to "incubate" a project?

In 1641, "incubate" entered the English language. The word's original meaning is to sit on an egg to provide warmth until it hatches. It's non-biological meaning is to slowly develop, as in an idea, product or company.


Why is an idyllic countryside notable?

It was first recorded in 1856. Synonyms include unspoiled and pastoral. It comes from the noun, "idyll," which means an idealized and picturesque scene.


When you divulge a piece of information, what do you do?

In the 1400s, "divulge" meant to declare publicly. This meaning was derived from the Latin "divulgare," which means to make known.


What does the word viable mean?

"Viable" means that something is capable of being successful (be it a seed or an idea.) It entered English from Latin via French. The word comes from the Latin word "vita," which influenced the Middle French word "vie," which means life.


If someone describes a gymnast as lithe, what is the gymnast?

"Lithe" also means easily bent. This meaning developed in the 14th century. Lithe evolved from the Old English word for gentle.


When you concur, what are you doing?

The current usage of "concur" can trace its origins to the Middle English "concurren." "Concurren" was derived from "concurrere," which is Latin. These words all mean to be in agreement.


Why would you describe something as garish?

"Garish" was first recorded in 1545. Originally it simply meant dressed in vivid colors. Now, it means something that's gaudy and tacky.


Why would an audience dislike a play that is trite?

If something is "trite," it's banal, unimaginative and boring. It means it isn't saying anything new or important, while simultaneously relying on things like cliches.


What is the meaning of "acumen?"

In 1549, "acumen" entered English. It's borrowed from Latin, where it means "acuteness of mind." It generally means to quickly make good decisions about something.


If something is expedient, what is it?

In 1630, expedient became a noun. Earlier, it was used as adjective that meant something was appropriate to end a particular circumstance. It's now used most often to describe something that is convenient. For instance: Calling to get information is more expedient than sending a letter by mail.


When something is done jocularly, how is it done?

Jocular was first documented in 1626. It comes from the Latin word "jocularis." Something that is jocular is done jokingly and happily.


Why might you not pay much attention to something that is prosaic?

"Prosaic" originally meant the ordinary form of language (to separate it from poetry or prose.) It was first recorded in the 1690s with this definition. It now means something that's common and uninspired.


If an author is prolific, what are they known for?

Originally, "prolific" was used to describe a plant that produced an abundance of fruit. It was used in the same way as fruitful. It now means to produce a lot of something (while also retaining the original definition.)


What is a reporter who is described as intrepid?

In 1680, "intrepid" entered English. The word is a combination of the prefix "in-" and "trepidus." It is Latin for not alarmed. Besides meaning courageous, it also means brave.


Why might you not understand something that is esoteric?

Since the term was coined, the meaning of "esoteric" has grown to include anything that is difficult to understand or is of unusual interest. The word comes from the Latin "esotericus."


Why would someone dislike a maudlin song?

"Maudlin" also means "drunk enough to be emotionally silly" per the Merriam Webster dictionary. The first use of this definition was in 1509.


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