How robust is your college vocabulary?

By: Olivia Seitz
Estimated Completion Time
3 min
How robust is your college vocabulary?
Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Do you fancy yourself a bit of a wordsmith? We challenge you to find out how much you really know about words by taking this college vocabulary quiz. How well do you think you'll do?

We here at How Stuff Works are fans of the English language. And we especially love vocabulary. By incorporating a love of words into your life, you can communicate in ways that you just can't accomplish without such love. But, let's be honest, you don't really need college-level vocabulary to communicate effectively. We think it's still pretty cool, though.

To be serious, college-level vocabulary isn't at all easy - it's not supposed to be. By the time you reach college, you are expected to be able to communicate at a level that exceeds the talents of the everyday individual. But, some folks have expanded their knowledge of words by using a simple tool... the crossword puzzle. You think we jest, but crossword puzzles can be an excellent way to learn new words, and use them, too. After all, how often will you have an opportunity to use words such as iconoclast, aspersion, and milieu?

So, put down that crossword puzzle and try your hand at this college vocabulary quiz now.

Which word describes someone who doesn't give up?
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Wrong Answer

Someone who is "tenacious" clings fiercely to what they believe or want to do. It can also refer to a substance that is particularly clingy or difficult to separate into parts.

What does it mean to "quibble" with someone?
to argue over minor things
to kiss
to express jealousy about a third party
to engage in a test of wits
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Wrong Answer

It can also describe evasive wording meant to avoid the heart of an argument, and to focus instead on minor grievances. A quibble is often a silly, small argument.

Which of the following words means "a spirit of fellowship"?
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"Camaraderie" is frequently used when describing the relationships within groups of friends, a close-knit unit of troops, and other such congregations. It's been in use since the mid-1800s.


What word would accurately describe a speech that was exaggerated, overblown and loud?
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"Bombastic" is an explosive word, used to describe someone who exaggerates and rants, filling their speech with important-sounding but empty words. While it's tempting to think it's an extension of the word "bomb," it's actually derived from a word that described cotton stuffing.

What does the word "opulent" describe?
something shabby
something old and worn
something fabulously rich
something tired
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A person is "opulent" if that person is exceedingly wealthy and/or glamorous; a place or thing is opulent if it's decorated expensively. The word is most often used in reference to objects that are showy and clearly costly.

Which of the following means, circular or winding?
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A path that doubles back on itself could be described as "circuitous," just as a fuzzy line of reasoning or evasive argument could be described as "circuitous."


Someone embarrassed by his or her actions would be...
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"Abashed" refers to a person's demeanor when they are ashamed or embarrassed by their actions or by a situation. A child caught red-handed in the cookie jar, for example, might be abashed.

What does the adjective "halcyon" mean?
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This word comes from the Greek for "kingfisher." It was believed that a halycon could bring calm seas during nesting, which is why the adjective describes conditions that are calm and peaceful.

Which of the following words is synonymous with "witty"?
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The adjective "scintillating" describes something that is delightfully clever, witty, or interesting. Its earliest known use dates from the late 1700s.


If someone is being "facetious," then they are...
being argumentative
joking around
dead serious
very upset
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A facetious statement is meant as a joke or as sarcasm. It can also be used to describe an insensitive statement spoken as though to be humorous.

What does it mean to "equivocate"?
to make a final decision
to use evasive language
to skip an important event
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Someone who equivocates uses noncommittal language and pushes off a decision. It may be done deceptively, or the person might just have a hard time making decisions.

What is an "aspersion"?
a type of festival
a dinner including asparagus
a false charge
a remedy for colds
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An "aspersion" is a falsehood told about someone in order to harm their reputation. The root word means "to sprinkle" or "to scatter," so "aspersion" is also used to describe the sprinkling of water in religious ceremonies.


An "iconoclast"...
isn't afraid to buck longstanding traditions
is a very serious worshipper
really loves celebreties
is antisocial
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The term comes from a movement to destroy icons, the religious images used by Eastern Christians. Now, it also refers to someone who challenges established beliefs and practices.

What is a "milieu"?
a type of cow
the year before the turn of a millenium
the look and feel of a place
a frustrated person
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The Moulin Rouge is a classic example of a milieu, which is a specific place and atmosphere where something takes place. It can also refer to the social setting; for example, a milieu could describe the favorite "hangout" for a bunch of hipster teenagers.

What does the word "dispassionate" mean?
madly in love
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Someone who is dispassionate is not moved by personal feelings or is relatively unattached with regard to a certain subject. Judges, for example, are expected to be dispassionate during the cases over which they preside.


Which of the following words describes something smooth, rich and flowing?
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The word "mellifluous" comes from the Latin words for "honey" and "flow." It can be used to describe someone's voice, or as an adjective for food.

If someone lives a "prosaic" life, that person has...
a heroic story
an ordinary existence
a series of great misfortunes
a storybook existence
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Anything prosaic is boring, bland or just plain ordinary. Historically, "prosaic" was simply used to distinguish between texts that were not poetry (prosaic) and texts that were poetic.

What does the word "evanescent" describe?
something that lasts forever
something smelly
something that quickly disappears
something radiant
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Something evanescent is something that vanishes (often without a trace) in a short period of time. Smoke, a light morning fog and a mirage are all examples of evanescent phenomena.


Which of the following adjectives means fancy or flowery?
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The adjective "florid" is typically used to describe writing or a style that is particularly flowery and fancy. It's also used to describe something red; someone red in the face would have a "florid" complexion, for example.

Which of the following words describes someone who complains a lot?
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Due to its similarity to the word "quarrelsome," it's tempting to think that "querulous" describes someone who gets into arguments. However, someone who is querulous just whines a lot.

Who among the following could best be described as "sagacious"?
a bratty know-it-all
a perceptive teacher
a frail old man
an intrepid adventurer
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Someone "sagacious" often understands people's motives and makes sound judgments when needed. Surprisingly, the word sagacious is not closely related to the word "sage," which means "wise."


What does the word "lugubrious" mean?
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The word "lugubrious" describes something that is mournful or dismal and dark, especially if it is arranged in a showy way. You might describe a group of goths as lugubrious.

What does it mean when someone's rise to fame is "mercurial"?
rapid and unpredictable
slow and arduous
facilitated by family wealth
solely due to musical talent
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Wrong Answer

"Mercurial" can describe anything that is changeable and unpredictable, from someone's temperament to the stock market. This word comes from the Greek god of thievery and travelers, Mercury.

Which of the following is a synonym for "raiment"?
door cover
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"Raiment" has a straightforward meaning: it describes your clothing! Garb, apparel and attire are also suitable synonyms.


What does it mean if someone is "diffident"?
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Someone who is "diffident" tends to refrain from or pause before speech and actions because of self-doubt or second-guessing. Such a person may be insecure and hesitant.

Which of the following words describes a kind of deception or misleading stratagem?
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Spies frequently engage in "subterfuge." It comes from Latin words which meant underneath and to flee, so the meaning has evolved a bit over time.

What word would you use to describe someone who is hospitable and loves hosting parties?
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The word "convivial" comes from the Latin "convivium," which means "banquet." A convivial person is usually outgoing and loves having people over.


What does it mean to be "nonchalant"?
to have an air of indifference
to be upset
to be in pain
to be whistling
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Someone who is "nonchalant" might be whistling in a carefree way, but the indifferent attitude is characteristic of being nonchalant. The word comes from the French "nonchaloir," which means "to disregard."

It would be accurate to describe a traitor as...
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Someone who is "perfidious" is someone who engages in deceptive, traitorous behavior; such a person is disloyal.

What does it mean if something is "spurious"?
spur of the moment
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Wrong Answer

"Spurious reasoning" is false or poor reasoning, and something which is "spurious" is misleading or insincere. Spurious does not refer to something that comes up at the last minute or is suggested on a whim.


What does it mean for something to be "banal"?
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Something "banal" is trite, overused and not at all novel. It comes from a French word, "ban," that refers to a call to arms.

What does the verb "obviate" mean?
to make obvious
to make necessary
to anticipate and prevent
to require
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To "obviate" something is to make it unnecessary or obsolete. For example, a measles vaccine should obviate the need to treat measles.

What is an "asylum"?
a jail
a sanctuary
a home
a forum
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While the word "asylum" might conjure up images of white walls and straitjackets, the term actually refers to a safe space. Many have sought asylum, or refuge, in times of need.


What does it mean to be "sedulous"?
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Someone who is "sedulous" is diligent and earnest in their undertakings. The Latin phrase, "se dolus," meaning, "without guile," eventually transformed into the word we use today.

What verb means "to go back on" a promise or duty?
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In use since the mid-1500s, the word "renege" means going back on a promise or duty, such as failing to pay up when you lose a bet or violating a treaty. Reneging on your loans, for example, would mean failing to pay back your loans.

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