Obscure Short Words: Are You Scrabble Smart?



By: Jonnathan Chadwick

6 Min Quiz

Image: Pixabay/jmw02824

About This Quiz

The longest word found in an English dictionary is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis and it is just a ridiculously long synonym for the lung disease silicosis. There's really no need to ever use a word that big, and luckily for you, this quiz is about small words that you've never heard of before. Depending on what dictionary you're using when playing Scrabble, any word in that dictionary—foreign, obsolete, archaic or slang—is permitted to use, and since a lot of people use the Internet for their dictionary these days, there are literally millions of words that can be played on the board.

To keep things simple, somewhat, this quiz is full of English words that are still in use. Some may be archaic or literary, but they're not obsolete, and all of them are rare. And to make things more fun, all the words are short words that you can actually use in everyday speech without sounding like someone who goes out of their way to use big words. If you consider yourself Scrabble smart and you know every two-, three- and four-letter "big word" known to man, here's the quiz to put your skills to the test. If you just need to learn some new words to add to your vocab, this is also the quiz for you. Let's see what you got.

What is a prig?

Prig is a noun used to define a person who is overly moral and holds others to pointlessly moral standards. In doing so they also act as if they are superior to others. It's like a snob but a bit more extreme.


What's another way to say snarl or growl?

Gnar is a verb that means to snarl or growl. It is different from the slang term that surfers, skaters and snowboarders use when they say they want to go "shred some gnar," which just means to go surfing, skating or snowboarding.


Ordained members of the church are called the clergy. What are non-ordained members called?

Laity is a noun that defines ordinary people opposed to professionals or experts in a certain field. The word originates from Middle English to differentiate non-ordained members of the church—or laymen—from the clergy, who are ordained church members.


To rudely stare at someone or something is to what?

Gawp is a verb meaning to rudely or stupidly stare at someone or something. To gawk at someone sounds similar and means the same thing. The word originated in the early 18th century and isn't used often today, but still counts if you're playing a game of Scrabble.


When you look in your closet, you're likely to see which of these things?

Raiment is a noun that means clothing or dress. It's mostly used in literary terms and is a shortened version of the obsolete word, arrayment, which means dress or clothing. The raiment of the 1920s set the standard for today's risque style.


Someone who is skillful, adroit or able is what?

Habile is an adjective that means having the general ability or skill to do something. It's a rare word that has been replaced in common speech with words like ability or skill, but it is still a real world and you can use it in plenty of word games.


What is Picasso known for creating?

Oeuvre is a noun that defines a work of art. It can also mean the collective works of art for a certain artist. If you're in the Massachusetts area, you can see the oeuvre of Norman Rockwell at the Norman Rockwell museum, which is full of oeuvres.


How might you label a man who is extremely concerned with their appearance or dress?

Fop is a noun that defines a man who is excessively concerned with his clothing, appearance and manners. A similar word is a dandy or a poser. A guy who takes longer than his girlfriend to get dressed for a night out might appear foppish.


An aggressive man or boy is a what?

Lout is a noun that means a brutish, uncouth or aggressive person, usually a man or boy. Some common synonyms are hooligan, hoodlum or thug. If you drive past a frat house on a Saturday night, the street may be packed with a bunch of louts.


Which word can be used to describe 'for the time being'?

Nonce is an adjective meaning for one time or one particular moment or for the time being. A common way to use this uncommon term is saying "for the nonce." The football stadium of the New Orleans Saints is being used for the nonce as a temporary shelter.


What are cads known for doing?

Cad is a noun that describes a misbehaved, dishonorable or irresponsible man, especially one who acts this way towards women. It's like a loafer, ne'er-do-well, scoundrel or rascal except they aim their dishonor toward women.


A hiccup, belch or burp is called a what?

Yex is a verb meaning to hiccup, belch or burp. It comes from the Middle English words yexen or yixen and isn't really used today. It's not polite to yex at the dinner table, and drinking water backwards is a common cure for yexing.


What is a tyro?

Tyro is a noun that defines a novice or a beginner. There are so many words—like neophyte, novice, newbie or newcomer—that can be used to define a beginner, but this is one you can use when you want to prove that you're not a tyro at word games.


What is the 14th letter of the Greek alphabet?

Xi is a noun that defines the 14th letter of the Greek alphabet and it is pronounced like the word "sigh" if "sigh" was spelled with a "z" instead of an "s." The Greek alphabet originated in the 8th century BC and is one of the oldest alphabets in the world.


One twentieth of a ream of paper is called what?

A quire is a noun that defines 25 sheets of paper. A ream of paper is 500 sheets of paper, so a quire is 1/20th of a ream. It can also be used as archaic spelling for the word "choir," which is something completely different and has nothing to do with paper.


Mike didn't eat his food fast; he degusted it. What did he do?

Degust is a verb meaning to taste something very carefully so to savor and appreciate every subtle flavor. If you go to a wine and cheese tasting event, instead of gulping down glasses of wine, you may degust each one.


How do you xertz something?

Xertz is a verb meaning to gulp something down quickly and greedily. If you were to be lost in the desert and finally came across a tall, cold drink of water (that wasn't a mirage) it would be perfectly appropriate to xertz.


Another word for trivial nonsense is what?

Piffle is a noun that defines nonsense. It can also be used as an exclamation and is somewhat onomatopoeic. The next time someone says something that is complete nonsense, instead of waving them off and saying "pffft," now you can say piffle.


What does limn mean?

Limn is a verb that means to depict something in words or drawing, and it can also mean to highlight or outline something. A painter knows how to limn a landscape, the sunset might perfectly limn the landscape, and you can read a book that limns the formation of a particular landscape.


How do you shunt?

Shunt is a verb meaning to move to the side or to travel between locales. Shunting is how most matadors stay alive and unharmed when in a ring with a bull. The bull, on the other hand, is shunting from one edge of the arena to the other.


A minor crash is a what?

Bingle is a noun that defines a minor crash. It is mostly used in British or Australian English and is an informal saying, but it is still a word. If you see a surfer wipe-out on a small wave, you can say you just saw a bingle.


What is a tigon?

A tigon is a noun that defines the hybrid offspring of a male tiger and a lioness. A liger is the offspring of a male lion and a tigress. Some other popular cross breeds are mules (horses and donkeys) and wolf-dogs.


If you're one who is known to cavil, you're one who's known to do what?

Cavil is a verb meaning to make a petty objection or it can be used as a noun defining a petty objection. The word originates from the 16th-century French word, "caviller." You might know someone who cavils every time you go out to eat.


What does fy mean?

Fy is a verb that means to digest. Today it is mostly used as a suffix—like to dignify—but it is an actual word. In the 2013 British National Scrabble Championships, one of the contestants played the two-letter word in the finale.


A naive person is a what?

Naif is a noun that defines a naive person. It can also be used as an adjective to describe something that is naive or ingenuous. Someone who believes in Santa Claus can be called a naif, or you can say that believing in Santa is very naif.


What does kvell mean?

Kvell is a verb that means to feel happy and proud or to burst with pride. It comes from the Yiddish word, "kveln." Great countries have great leaders whose speech and achievements allow the citizens to kvell.


Another word for regret is?

Rue is a verb that means to bitterly regret something or to wish that something had never happened. As a noun it means a regret, as in: What happened last night is my biggest rue. It can also mean pity or compassion.


The most worthless or undesirable part of something is called what?

Draff is a noun that defines the remains or sediment left from liquid. It is similar to refuse, which is the worthless part of something. Some people do use draff as animal feed, which means—in some cases—it's not completely worthless.


What is a zax?

A zax, which can also be spelled "sax," is a noun that defines a sort of double tool that's used to cut roof tiles and poke nail holes into them. One side of a zax is usually sharp and the other side resembles a pick.


Which of these words can describe sharp mental judgement?

Argute is an adjective that describes acute mental judgment. Common synonyms are shrewdness or sagacity. The most valuable thing you get when pursuing an MFA in creative writing are the argute critiques from your peers and teachers.


How do you dight a meal?

Dight is a verb meaning to prepare something. If you dight a meal for a party, you prepare the meal. If you didn't dight the meal and your guests have already arrived, you might have to dight for a confrontation.


Mike's friend bibbled his food. What did he do?

Bibble is a verb that means to eat or drink very noisily. Somebody who chews with their mouth open might bibble, and if you're at a wine and cheese event, it's not good form to bibble while tasting your wine and cheese.


A really steep mountainside is called a what?

Cwm, pronounced kwoom, is a noun that defines a steep cliff-side or a steep-sided opening at the head of a valley or on a mountainside. The word is of Welsh origin and is one of those rare words that doesn't have any vowels.


Very rough and jagged lava with a frothy texture is called what?

Aa, pronounced ah-ah, is a noun that defines rough and jagged lava. It is one of the three major types of lava and it usually occurs when lava is flowing pretty fast. Pahoehoe lava is smooth and pillow lava occurs under water.


Which of these words means to punish someone by fining them?

Mulct is a verb that means to extract money from someone as a form of punishment or taxation. It is also a noun that defines a fine or tax. The IRS might mulct a large percentage of your earnings every year, and if you don't pay, you may get mulcted.


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