Do You Know These 35 Tricky Terms?



By: Ashley Ehman

6 Min Quiz

Image: Witthaya Prasongsin / Moment / Getty Images

About This Quiz

In September 2018, the Merriam-Webster dictionary added a slew of new words to its collection. Some of those words were easy to understand, like 'hangry' and 'marg.' Others, however, were more difficult in nature. The word 'haptics' was added, which is the science of touch. 'Biohacking' was also among the more complicated words appended to the dictionary.  Biohacking will be used more prevalently in the future, as it's the term used to describe activities like gene editing. Merriam-Webster is constantly examining new potential words and adding them to their lexicon. 

With the words in the English language expanding every year, it can be hard to keep up! While everyday use might not require the regular use of complex words, things like standardized tests and careers in certain professions call for a more expansive vocabulary. Or perhaps you just like to use complicated sounding words! 

Whatever your reason is for knowing tricky words, this is the perfect way to put your knowledge to the test! If you know the difference between 'cue' and 'queue,' these questions will be the ideal challenge for you! Let's see if your word knowledge is enough to ace these questions and prove that you have an advanced vocabulary. 

"The woman was able to cajole her way out of a speeding ticket." What does 'cajole' mean?

More likely than not, we have all attempted to cajole someone, especially during childhood! During lunch hour, if a child pleads with another to share their dessert by saying, "Pretty please! I'll be your best friend," then they're cajoling the other student.


"The woman was able to entertain her guests with great panache since she was an event planner." In this sentence, what does the word 'panache' mean?

The word 'panache' has its roots in the Latin word 'pinna,' which means feather. While this may not make much sense, the original definition for panache actually meant a plumage of feathers! The first use of the word to more directly mean flamboyance was recorded in 1898.


"Despite checking her list multiple times, Matilda had the ________ feeling that she had forgotten something." What word goes in the blank?

The word 'uncanny' comes from a mix of northern England and Scottish origins. The only thing 'strange and supernatural' about this word is one of its definitions! Uncanny can also be used to describe something mischievous.


"The man didn't do well after his promotion, so he was relegated back to his original role in the company." What does relegate mean?

When 'relegate' began to be more commonly used beginning in the 1850s, it meant "to exile someone." Obviously, today it takes on a less serious meaning, which is understood to mean being downgraded.


If someone is 'dilatory', they can be described as which of the following?

Dilatory can be described as 'slow to act' or used in a way that means 'to delay.' If a car is driving purposefully below the speed limit on the freeway, this could be described as dilatory driving.


"He seemed unabashed about the commotion his spilled drink caused." What does 'unabashed' mean?

The term 'abashed' has been used to describe individuals as being embarrassed for hundreds of years. Apparently, people never dealt with not being embarrassed before the 1500s, though, since 'unabased' was not used until later.


If someone's efforts are described as 'indefatigable', they are working in what fashion?

'Indefatigable' is quite a mouthful with it being made up of six syllables. However, when it's broken down in to pieces, it begins to make sense. The various parts of the word can be understood to mean "not completely tired."


What word would best describe Frankenstein's monster?

While the term 'aberration' can be used in a literary sense, it's also a word found in physics! An aberration in this scientific field is when light is skewed, making an image appear blurry.


"The child's father walked him into his new classroom to assuage any nerves the young boy may have." 'Assuage' matches which term?

Assuage is the act of making something unpleasant feel less intense. A nurse might assuage a nervous child before a flu shot by offering them a sticker for behaving and being brave.


Neil deGrasse Tyson has a fervid fascination with outer space. 'Fervid' can be understood to mean which of the following terms?

Neil deGrasse Tyson has a fervid passion for astrophysics. He is the current Director of the Hayden Planetarium located in New York City and has published many books on the subject, including "Astrophysics for People in a Hurry."


The poem form known as a haiku can be described by which of the terms listed?

The origin of 'laconic' comes from the geographical location of Laconia, which is a region of Greece. Ancient people of this region were said to be terse and to-the-point when they talked.


"The students had a certain level of irreverence toward their principal because he cancelled their school dance." What does 'irreverence' mean?

Despite its length, the term 'irreverence' can be better understood when it is realized that it is made with the shorter word, 'revere,' which is described as admiration. Irreverence is the opposite of admiration.


Uncle Colm, from the "Derry Girls" television show, is someone who seems to talk endlessly about things that don't matter. What word best describes Uncle Colm?

Despite his boring character in "Derry Girls," Kevin McAleer is actually an interesting individual. He got his start in the entertainment industry as an Irish stand-up comedian and has some acting roles to his name.


The controlling character, Dolores Umbridge (from the "Harry Potter" universe), has a personality that could be defined by which term?

'Insolent' has its roots in late Middle English. It was during this time that it came to describe subjects that go beyond acceptable limits. Umbridge using a Blood Quill on Harry Potter could be described as insolent.


Instead of saying that someone is "calm, cool and collected," what single word can be used to describe all three?

Phlegmatic can be used to describe a certain type of personality that is perceived to be intuitive and calm. Phlegmatic personalities are said to think in webs, making a connection between small bits of information.


The prince in the fairy tale about Rapunzel was quixotic because he used her hair to get into her tower. What does this mean?

If someone is described as quixotic, they have the desire to be noble and chivalrous but are often not realistic about their actions. The word's definition is related to the literary character, Don Quixote.


"The owner of the AirBnb was very punctilious. We had every amenity we could possibly need!" Which word is a synonym for 'punctilious'?

With more than 150 million users using AirBnb, it's important to make your listing stand out. By being punctilious, one's listing has a better chance of being booked over the 1.9 million listings available worldwide.


"Because she baked her cake too long, the oven had dessicated the dessert." What does dessicate mean?

There is limited fauna that can survive in the Sahara Desert, due to its lack of rain and extreme heat. These two factors can dessicate any plant that isn't suited for the desert's climate.


Muhammad Ali had to enervate many opponents before he was seen as one of the best boxers of all time. 'Enervate' can be understood to mean what?

Enervate is the term given to someone who is feeling drained of energy. During his career, Ali was in a total of 61 fights, with 56 of those resulting in a win for the heavy-weight champion.


If a teenage boy is considered to be aggressively defiant, he could be described as being what?

People who are quick to defend themselves often miss the purpose of what the other person is saying. Instead of retaliating, it is beneficial to self-support and self-validate one's self.


Which of the following terms means 'to take offense'?

The most common use of 'umbrage' is to describe someone who is offended by something. However, the more archaic use of the word represents a shadow, most often created by a large tree.


People who are against climate change are vociferous opponents to big corporations. What does 'vociferous' mean?

One key vociferous climate change activist is Greta Thunberg. She has been a part of a number of climate change protests and even spoke in front of politicians about the importance of taking care of the planet.


"There was no way to explain why they did it; the robbery was a wanton act of violence." What does 'wanton' mean here?

Despite sounding like a Chinese dumpling, wanton actually means deliberate. If you're making wonton soup, you'll want to follow the recipe wantonly, to ensure that you add the onions, oyster sauce and chili oil.


What is a synonym for 'ignominious'?

Ignominious is a term based off the shorter, similar word "ignominy," which can be understood to mean a public defeat. Ignominy is used in the religious text of Christianity, the Bible.


Cinderella could be described as which of the following?

Demure is a word that means modest, unassuming and quiet. Cinderella is an example of a demure woman because she has all of these qualities, unlike her stepsisters, who are loud and rude.


M-Theory is a complex scientific theory proposed by Edward Witten. Witten is an expert on this arcane subject. What does 'arcane' mean?

Arcane is a word used to describe things that many people do not understand. M-Theory, or the combination of all plausible versions of superstring theory, could be considered an arcane subject.


"The military arrogated the government's control of the country following the military coup." Which word most closely matches the meaning of 'arrogate'?

"Arrogate" can be understood to mean to seize something without justification. The word is also shared with a successful racehorse, Arrogate. Perhaps his owners hoped he would arrogate victories!


When he yells, "Get out of my swamp!", Shrek could be described as which of the following terms?

A misanthrope is someone who does not like humankind. In Shrek's case, he chooses to dislike humans AND fairy tale creatures. The annoyed ogre just wants two things: solitude and his swamp.


Which of the following would be a synonym for 'bilk'?

While the term "bilk" is used today to mean "to cheat," its origin word had a different meaning. Coming from English root words, in the 17th century, bilk was used to mean "to spoil an opponent's score."


If a police officer is meant to be cognizant of local laws, what is expected of them?

Despite being expected to know the laws inside and out, police officers are simply unable to know the intricacies of every law. There's an estimated range of 15,000 to over 50,000 laws in place in the United States at the federal level alone!


"Context clues allow for people to construe the meaning of a word that they don't immediately know." What does 'construe' mean?

Being able to construe the meaning of a word comes in handy when it comes to standardized testing. One can only hope that the 1.9 million students that took the ACT in 2018 used this to their advantage!


Which of the following is something that a choir would sing?

A dirge is a form of mournful song that is often played at funerals. One popular dirge is "On Eagle's Wings." It is based on the religious text found in Psalms 91, within the book of Matthew.


In "Mean Girls," when Gretchen Weiners flaunts that her father is the inventor of toaster strudel, she implies which term?

By announcing that her father invented toaster strudels, one can imply that she may have power and excessive wealth, or ostentation. According to the Mean Girls Wiki page, her father invented them in 1985.


Someone like Ariana Grande may be looking to dispel headlines that appear on paparazzi magazines. Which of the following terms most closely matches the meaning of dispel?

She's one of the most famous artists in the world; it's no surprise that Ariana Grande may have rumors she would like to dispel (or eliminate their legitimacy).


At Mrs. Puff's Boating School, her 'Good Noodle Board' is used to extol her students. What does 'extol' mean?

The 'Good Noodle Board' is used as a way to extol the students in Mrs. Puff's class. At one point, SpongeBob SquarePants' name is followed by 25 'Good Noodle' stars, whereas everyone else in the class only has a few.


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