If You Pass This Vocabulary Quiz With All Words That Start With ‘Z,’ You May Be a Genius


By: Ariana Perez

6 Min Quiz

Image: Alberto Cassani / Moment / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Remember when you were a kid and you grabbed the dictionary and used to sort through pages and pages under the ‘E’ section, or ‘A’ section, or even ‘S’? Well, as a refresher, that’s what kids used to do back in the day when there were no computers and English class homework required you to do some vocabulary digging.

If you didn’t have a dictionary at home, guess what? You would have to carry that big fat book with you all the way home just so you could do homework.  However, amid the desperation of having to sort through never-ending lists of words, there was some fun that came with all of this. It was easy getting lost in the pages and reading other interesting words that we had never heard about (not back then and perhaps not even today). Ah, the good old days!

Or remember the vocabulary books English teachers would distribute at the beginning of a school year and with a firm tone would assure us how we would go through the ENTIRE book? Yikes, that seemed like a lot of work to do (and a lot of words to remember).

The English language is a beautiful one and the vocabulary is extensive. Why not use it wisely and sound very ‘smart’ in the process? We’ve compiled a list with words that start with the letter ‘Z’ to test your knowledge of English vocabulary. See if you can pass this quiz with all words that start with ‘Z’ and find out if you’re a genius!

Which of the following is an African musical instrument?

“The boy played the zanza to entertain the crowd around him as they cheered and danced.” A zanza is a beautiful-looking African musical instrument made out of wood (it’s a percussion instrument). It can be played by holding it in the hands and plucking the metal (or sometimes wooden) tines with the thumbs.


“The actress playing the lead role was a zaftig brunette.” If someone is described as “zaftig”, what do they look like physically?

The zaftig brunette actress is pleasingly plump, basically meaning she's curvealicious. The word was borrowed into English from Yiddish and originated from a German word meaning “juicy”. “Zaftig's” definition make them boys go crazy!


What would be the right word to describe someone who is described as a clown or a bizarre acrobat that imitates comedies in a quirky way?

He's a zany person, being very unoriginal and just imitating old tricks that are now just boring. This 16th century word originates from the French word zani or Italian zan(n)i, a stock name used for the servants acting as clowns in comedy.


If something is described as “zef”, what is being implied?

“Zef” means trashy, or at least that's what it means in South African slang. It comes from the name of the Ford Zephyr, a car believed to once have been popular among working-class South Africans. "Ew, she's so zef with her booty shorts and her flip flops with socks."


What’s a tree with striped wood called?

A zebrano is basically what it sounds like, a tree with striped wood (because of its similarity to a zebra). It is another name for zebrawood and refers to several African trees (especially Microberlinia brazzavillensis) or tropical American trees having striped wood, which is usually used in cabinetmaking.


Great writers, like Charles Dickens, are examples of the zeugma, writing sentences like “went straight home in a flood of tears, and a sedan-chair.” What can zeugma be best described as?

A zeugma is best described as a figure of speech in which a word or phrase joins together two distinct parts of a sentence. Fun fact: zeugma in Greek means yoke, in the sense of two things being linked together as one.


When do you hold your mouth to one side in a curious, indecisive fashion?

"The student was zidle-mouthed when the teacher asked him a question while he was chatting with his other classmate and making jokes." Basically, the student was holding his mouth to one side in a curious, indecisive fashion because he had no clue what was going on. That's what happens when you don't pay attention in class ...


What’s another fancy way of saying “gingery”?

Zingiberaceous specifically refers to plants of the genus Zingiber. In other words, it’s just a fancier and cooler way of saying “gingery.” Next time you go to the juice shop to get a smoothie with ginger, let them know you like it when your drinks taste zingiberaceous.


Which of the following words mean to heat something over a fire for a long time, but not to boil it?

Zam is an old southwest English dialect word meaning “to heat something over a fire for a long time, but not to boil it.” Like in the old times, when you had to hold the kettle over the fire to warm up food - you would zam your food.


What can zymurgy be best described as?

Zymurgy, or zymology, is an applied science, and an interesting one too! It looks into the biochemical process of fermentation and its practical uses. So anything from brewing to making wine, that's all a process that was studied through zymurgy.


Butterflies’ wings seem to be zygopleural. What does “zygopleural” imply?

Zygopleural is mainly used in biological contexts and it means that something is bilaterally symmetrical. For example, think of a butterfly’s wings! They're symmetrical, or because we are talking biologically, they're zygopleural.


If the adjective zygal is used to describe an object, what does that object look like?

Zygal very literally means “shaped like a zygon,” the name of a connecting crossbar-shaped fissure that can be found in the brain. To keep it simple, it's just a word to describe the fissure having an “H-shape”. You're likely to hear this word often if you're in the medical field.


He was in a zwodder state of mind after a few drinks. What does “zwodder” mean?

As best described by one 19th century dictionary, a zwodder is “a drowsy and stupid state of mind.” If you're groggy because you haven't had your cup of coffee in the morning before heading to work, you're likely to feel zwodder.


What’s an immediate move?

Zwischenzug, also borrowed from the chess world, translates to “intermediate move.” Think about when a chess player is about to make a move before the move and beat his or her opponents, that's a zwischenzug.


What’s a domesticated ox native to Asia and Africa that has a hump on the back and a large dewlap?

A zebu is an ox with a humped back, long horns and a large dewlap. In countries like India and East Asia, this ox is used as a draught animal because it can easily withstand high temperatures.


What’s an adjective that describes the larval stage of crabs and related crustaceans during which spines on the body and the limbs are not fully developed yet?

Zoeal refers to a larval form of crabs and certain other decapod crustaceans with spines on the body limbs that are not fully developed. They actually look like long fingers with nails.


At Mincha services, a zizith and tefillin are worn with proper blessings prior to wearing them. What is a zizith?

A zizith are the knotted tassels of thread that are attached to the corners of a tallit or other garment. These symbolize the 613 commandments in the Hebrew Scriptures and are worn by Israelites and observant Jews and Samaritans.


If something is “zazzy”, it’s probably…

Zazzy is short for pizazz. If something is zazzy, then it’s flashy or very shiny. Lady Gaga is definitely known to be one to wear zazzy jewelry and clothing and makeup and lifestyle and everything, honestly. She’s just … zazzy.


What’s another word for cheekbone or malar bone?

Zygoma refers to the zygomatic bone, a bone of the human skull more commonly referred to as the cheekbone or malar bone. It literally sits right along the cheekbone and runs along until it touches the jaw.


What’s used as the measurement and comparison of the sizes and proportions of animals or animal parts?

Zoometry is just a fancy way of saying the measurement and comparison of the sizes and proportions of animals or animal parts. It is a branch of zoology and hey, sounds like it would be a great job title to include on anyone’s LinkedIn profile.


Which of the following is a synonym for a sea anemone or a sponge?

A zoophyte is an invertebrate animal, like a jellyfish or a sea anemone, and that looks very similar to a plant. Wouldn’t it be fun if you go around life being described as belonging to the zoophyte type?


These carnivorous mammals inhabit arid regions of southern Africa. Can you identify them?

Could have been a zebra, except that they are herbivorous unlike a zorilla, which is a carnivorous mustelid mammal of Africa. A zorilla (or striped polecat) looks very much like a skunk and defends itself like a skunk would, too.


Wine on the side and zabaglione for dessert make the best meal ever. Can you describe zabaglione?

Zabaglione is an Italian dessert that can be either drunk or eaten, hot or cold. It's super easy to make, you'll just need some egg yolks, sugar and a sweet wine (some recipes include spirits such as cognac). Yum.


What would you call a large Japanese business conglomerate?

A large Japanese business conglomerate is referred to as a zaibatsu. If you didn’t know that, next time you’ll have a new word added to your list of vocabulary words to throw out there and impress others.


At what time is something at its most powerful or successful?

Zenith is the highest part or point when something has reached its most powerful or successful state. "If you feel like you’ve reached your zenith in this company, it might be a good time to pursue a different opportunity that will challenge you and allow you to grow."


What’s ziram?

Ziram is best defined as a type or organic salt. So, say for example you were to invest on chemical stock price, you would likely read a report along the lines: “Buying thiram and ziram based fungicides and other plant growth regulators can boost your business as the stock market beat is on the rise.”


You’re a zilch! What are you?

A zilch is a person of no importance or influence at all. If someone calls you zilch, please understand they’re insulting you in some way and they’re not being nice (or even trying to).


A group of students have launched their own underground ‘zine’ to satirize the university's events. How would you best define ‘zine’?

A zine is best described as a publication that appears at regular intervals. Seems like a logical thing for students to do, because apparently school assignments aren’t enough. Not.


If you look zonked, you’re probably what?

If you’re zonked, you’re under the influence of a recreational drug. “He came back from the party zonked.” It can also mean tired or exhausted, which depending on the drug, that could also be a side effect relating to the first definition.


The group roared with laughter as the embarrassed man ‘zagged’ the line after his phone went off with a rap ringtone. How would you best define zag?

To zag is to depart abruptly from a straight line or course. If my phone went off in front of a crowd with one of Jay Z’s top hits as the ringtone, maybe I would bust a move or something. No need to be shy, be proud instead!


Which of the following is the name used to refer to the seventh letter of the Hebrew alphabet?

This letter represents the “z” sound for the Semitic abjads. Its name come from a sword (probably due to its similarity to the weapon). Here’s a fun fact: in Biblical Hebrew, it means sword. So this letter has several uses!


What’s a ‘zax’?

If you're working with someone who is trimming and puncturing roofing slates, you should probably have a zax somewhere near you. If you’re looking to build or rebuild a roof, this is an essential tool that you’ll require for making the right adjustments.


Some states' ‘zeal’ for weapons has often made headlines. What does ‘zeal’ mean?

"The girl's zeal to succeed in her interview was obvious by the big smile on her face and nervousness." Zeal often refers to a feeling of strong eagerness in pursuit of a cause or an objective that you’re interested in. Basically, it’s a synonym for words like the passion or devotion you feel.


I felt the pleasant, warm ‘zephyr’ by the palm trees. How would you best define ‘zephyr’?

Zephyr can be best defined as a soft, gentle breeze. If you’re under the palm trees, you’re likely to hear the waves, smell the fresh sea and FEEL the slight warm wind. I need a vacation now!


What do you call an African wild horse with black-and-white stripes that has an erect mane?

A zebra is an African wild horse with black-and-white stripes that has an erect mane. After a few studies were conducted, a group of scientists recently studied the reason why zebras have stripes. Their conclusion: Zebra stripes are dazzling, particularly to flies.


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