Do You Know These Smart-Sounding Synonyms for Common Words?


By: Allison Lips

6 Min Quiz

Image: John Sommer / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Expanding your vocabulary can be fun. While wedging a word of the day into your normal speech can feel inauthentic and irritate your friends and colleagues due to your newly found sesquipedalian nature, there are ways to introduce new words into your vocabulary without sounding like you're reciting a memorialized dictionary. 

When practicing advanced vocabulary, you want to avoid sounding like a braggart. The point isn't to make your speech circuitous. In fact, using the correct word can illustrate your point better than using imprecise words hoping that other people can infer your exact intentions. 

Words like "good" and "bad" are useful, but they are too broad for someone to accurately interpret the connotations you want to expound, making it easy for your statements to be misconstrued. Instead, you may want to try exceptional or superb for good and atrocious or dreadful for bad. 

If you're a logophile, you should already be familiar with most of the words in this quiz or find that the quiz jogs your memory of long-forgotten words. If you're not someone who collects new vocabulary words from TV, movies and books, you'll enjoy this opportunity to acquire new words. 

Are you ready to test your vocabulary's limits? Then don't delay! Take this quiz! 

If you ask someone to elucidate, what are you requesting they do?

Elucidate is a verb. It comes from the Latin word "lucidus," which means lucid. Other descendants of "ludius" include lucid, translucent and lucent. Synonyms for elucidate are explicate, explain and expound.


When someone obfuscates something, they are doing what?

Obfuscate is a verb. It can mean to make obscure or to confuse. The word is a combination of -ob, which means completely and "fuscus," which means dark brown. The first known usage of obfuscate was in 1536.


You're watching a scintillating show. How would you describe it?

In a verb form, scintillate means to sparkle. Scintillating means lively, stimulating or witty. It is an adjective. Scintillating was first used in the late 1700s. A few synonyms are brilliant, animated and ebullient.


Why would you take umbrage if someone told a joke you thought was in poor taste?

While umbrage is now used as a reaction to an insult, it originally meant shadow and shares an origin with "umbrella." Both words come from the Latin word "umbra." Umbrage gained its present meaning in the 17th century.


If someone was planning a nefarious scheme, you'd consider them what?

Nefarious is an adjective that means wicked, but as nefariously it can be used as an adverb. The word can trace its roots back to the Latin word nefas, which meant crime. Nefarious entered English in the early 1600s.


When faced with something overly complicated, you may feel flummoxed. What does it mean?

In 1832, flummoxed was used for the first known time. The word means completely confused or perplexed. If you want to use another word with a similar meaning, you can use bewildered, discombobulated, baffled or disconcerted.


Why would you want to invite a bunch of gregarious people to a party?

In the 1600s, gregarious entered English as a way to describe herd animals. In the following century, gregarious started being applied to social human beings. The word has its origins in the Latin noun "grex," which means herd.


In algebra class you studied infinitesimal values, but how would you describe those values' size?

In plain English, infinitesimal means immeasurably small or minute. Its mathematical meaning is a variable that gets extremely close to zero but remains greater than zero. Similar words are imperceptible, minuscule and microscopic.


Greenland is an example of a misnomer, but why does that word fit?

Misnomer simply means to misname. For example, about 80 percent of Greenland's land is icy, which is why the name is considered a misnomer. Another frequently cited example is the Holy Roman Empire, which wasn't holy, Roman or an empire.


You might be uncomfortable if someone ogles you because they are doing what?

Ogle is a verb that means to stare. However, it usually refers to someone glaring intently at the object of the desire, usually another person. Ogle is derived from "oegeln," a Low German word meaning eye.


If you say you're peeved by nails on a chalkboard, what are you suggesting?

Peeve can be used as a noun or a verb. As a verb, it describes the person doing the annoying. As a noun, it refers to the state of being annoyed or the person who is the source of that irritation.


Why would a student revel in getting an A on an exam?

Revel is a noun and a verb. As a noun, it is a wild party. In verb form, revel can be to take part in a celebration or to take pleasure in something. In the 1500s, revel obtained both meanings.


What would you call an anomaly in a set of data?

Anomaly's synonyms include irregularity, abnormality, peculiarity, aberration, atypicality and oddity. As a variation of anomalous, it comes from the Greek word anōmalos, which means uneven.


Calling someone solipsistic is another way of saying which trait?

Solipsistic was first used in 1885. It is an adjective that describes a person or thing that is extremely egocentric. Solipsism is a theory that says the self is the only thing that exists.


By using perfunctory, you're most likely not describing yourself because it means what?

Perfunctory is used as an adjective to describe someone who lacks interest or is apathetic. It can also mean something that shows signs of being superficial. The first recorded use is from 1593.


Why would yoga help you feel equanimity?

In the early 17th century, equanimity entered English from the Latin "aequanimitas," which roughly means even mind. Modern synonyms for equanimity include calmness, serenity, tranquility and composure.


You probably wouldn't take a parsimonious person to an expensive restaurant because they are what?

Parsimonious is the adjective form of parsimony. Parsimony originated in Latin as parsimōnia, which combines "parcere" with "-mōnia." Parcere meant to be thrifty, while -mōnia is a suffix that was added to abstract nouns at the time.


In "The Great Gatsby," the characters frequent opulent parties. What does opulent mean?

In 1518, opulent was used in English for the first time. The adjective can describe items that are ostentatious or abundant. Words with similar meanings are rich, affluent, and wealthy.


Instead of declaring that "We hold these truths to be self-evident," Thomas Jefferson could have used which word?

Axiomatic means self-evident or obvious and is used as an adjective. Its origins are traced back to the Middle Greek "axiōmatikos," which meant honorable. English adopted the word in the late 18th century.


If the news is reporting on a gruesome murder, why would someone not want all the lurid details?

Lurid is an adjective. Usually, it is not a positive quality. Lurid is a synonym for atrocious, awful, ghastly, horrifying, macabre, shocking, appalling and grisly. Its second meaning is a fiery yellow or red that can be used to describe flames or a sunset.


What is someone who is bloviating about a topic doing?

Bloviate is a verb used to describe someone who speaks long-windedly. Even though he didn't coin it, President Warren G. Harding is associated with the word because he was an earlier adopter. However, he used bloviate to mean "to spend time idly."


Why would someone who seeks out compliments hang out with sycophants?

Sycophant is a noun that refers to a person in a low position who fawns over someone in order to receive some benefit. Synonyms include flunky, leech, parasite, toady, flatterer and yes man.


A neophyte may not be familiar with all the rules of a sport because they are what?

Neophyte is a noun. It describes someone who is a beginner or a novice. While neophyte was used in a 16th century Bible translation, the word didn't become popular at the time because people dismissed it as pretentious Latin.


If someone is discussing a paradigm shift, what are they saying is changing?

In the 1600s, paradigm was used as a synonym for example or pattern. However, the word is also used for a commonly accepted assumption or methodology held by members of a scientific community.


While you may hope for a panacea for a difficult situation, why are you unlikely to find one?

A panacea is a cure-all, which is appropriate because it comes from a Greek word meaning "all-healing." The Greek panacea derives from Panacea, who was the goddess of healing. The first known usage of panacea in English is from 1548.


When presented with a business proposal, you may acquiesce, but what does the word mean?

Acquiesce is a verb that means to consent. More specifically, it means "to comply quietly." Acquiesce comes from "quiescere," a Latin word that means "to be quiet." Similar words are accede, concur, subscribe and assent.


Why would you reluctantly capitulate to an agreement?

If you capitulate, you cease resisting. The word is a verb with synonyms like submit, yield and succumb. Capitulate entered English in the late 1500s and is derived from the Medieval Latin "capitulatus."


What categorizes a remark as facetious?

Facetious is an adjective with two different, but related meanings. While a facetious comment is always intended to be funny, sometimes it can be inappropriate. Synonyms include humorous, jocular and witty.


If you find the antithesis of something you like, what did you discover?

The antithesis of something is its direct opposite or something that provides a contrast. The word and its concepts are used in philosophy. English acquired the word in the 16th century from the Greek word for opposition.


Why would you enjoy listening to a mellifluous voice?

Mellifluous originates from the Latin words "mel" and "fluere." The former means honey, while the latter means to flow. Mellifluous can still be used to refer to honey or another sweetener. However, it usually refers to sound.


A child may be attracted to a lustrous object because it has which quality?

A lustrous object reflects light or is radiant. While lustrous is an adjective, the word has adverbial and noun forms as well, which are lustrously and lustrousness respectively. Similar words include bright, dazzling and lucent.


Sanguine is a blood red color, but it can also refer to a mood. Which one is it?

Sanguine is an adjective with many meanings. It is a shade of red, can describe someone who is bloodthirsty, and someone who has blood as the predominating bodily humor according to the Ancient Greeks.


Why would you feel good about auspicious circumstances?

Auspicious is an adjective that can mean prosperous or fortunate. Its first known usage was in 1593. If you're looking for similar words, try bright, hopeful, optimistic or encouraging.


You would keep something that is proficuous around because it is what?

Proficuous is rarely used because it is considered obsolete. However, it can still be used to describe something as beneficial or profitable. Robert Callis, a lawyer, is the first known person to use it.


Parents who divorce may try to keep the relationship amicable for the kids. What does amicable mean?

The adjective amicable was adopted from Latin in the 1600s. It is derived from "amicabilis," which means friendly. Synonyms for amicable include neighborly, friendly, cordial, congenial and harmonious.


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