Only A Word Wizard Will Know The Meaning Of These 35 Words

By: Ruby Scalera

Only A Word Wizard Will Know The Meaning Of These 35 Words
Image: Nastasic / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

How many words do you know? 

The book reviewer James Nicoll once said, "We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifled through their pockets for new vocabulary." 

English is comprised of unique and exciting words, phrases and idioms from many different languages and parts of the world. While there is no true count of just how many words exist in the English language, some believe the number to be as high as one million, with something like 200,000 in modern circulation. Many of those words come from other languages or have been appropriated for the English tongue, and that is even before the conversation on types of English can start. (For instance, are "grey" and "gray" considered two different words?) English differs vastly from country to country, region to region and even year to year, which makes for an exciting journey of communication and creativity that never comes to an end. 

Whether you're a lifelong scholar of English or a voracious reader, it's still challenging to come across all the unique and beautiful words English has to offer. Put your knowledge of vocabulary to the test and see if you can't identify some of these unique words. Then test your friends! 

The forest was calm and calamitous this morning.
I like to read in a calamitous environment like the library.
She always kept her apartment neat and calamitous.
The storm at sea was calamitous. Several men were thrown overboard and the mast broke.
If you recognize the word calamity, you'll know that the last sentence is correct. A calamity or calamitous situation is one in which disaster occurs and there are great loss and destruction, like a storm at sea. Calamities tend to cause lasting damage.

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Old Sailboat In what historical profession would you use a portolan?
Chimney sweeping
Woodworking
Teaching
Sailing
A portolan, often called portolan charts, dates back to the 13th century, where early sailors exploring the Mediterranean needed new maps and directions to safely navigate. It is based on the Italian word "portulano" related to ports and harbors, and the artifacts are considered accurate even by today's standards.

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Gutenberg Bible What is an incunabula?
The Gutenberg Bible
An incunabula is a book or pamphlet printed in Europe before 1501. Specifically, it had to be printed, not written by hand as most manuscripts were, because this era refers to texts printed in the early days of the printing press, though the year is up for debate among historians.
"Pride and Prejudice"
"The Hunchback of Notre Dame"
"A Tale of Two Cities"

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Female hiker How does a person perambulate?
They travel on foot.
When you perambulate, you're just as focused on the journey as the destination. The walk is both pleasurable and leisurely, and almost always done on foot, like wandering a marketplace or park.
They navigate using the stars
They eschew modern technology.
They eat only what they grow.

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Wedding When you practice hypergamy, you:
Marry into a higher social or economic class than the one in which you were raised
Hypergamy is the act of marrying up. While society today is less considered with titles (though not necessarily less with money) historically it was challenging to move between social classes and this would have been considered an admirable feat.
Share your crops and animals with your neighbors
Become a patron of an individual artist or musician
Raise another person's child

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Judge gavel When something is draconian, that means it refers to:
Scientific discoveries
Laws or rules, particularly harsh ones
Draconian means severe or particularly harsh, specifically as it refers to laws or rules. It was written after a 7th-century B.C. legislator named Draco who wanted to make even minor infractions punishable by death.
Space exploration
The process of achieving a higher degree of education

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Buy ticket at airport Which decision would be considered capricious?
The choice to spend weeks preparing for an exam
The choice to propose to a partner
The choice to learn a new hobby
The choice to go to the airport and buy the first available ticket
When a person or character is capricious, they tend to act on impulse or whim. Their actions are often difficult to predict and appear to come out of nowhere. Weather patterns are often considered capricious.

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Vocabulary If you are engaged in a logomachy, what are you fighting about?
Political movements
Vocabulary and words
The word logomachy literally translates into "word" and "to fight" from the ancient Greek "logos" and "machesthai." It first went into recorded use in the 1500s and covers any argument about words.
Technical discoveries
Issues of universal suffrage

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A formal debate or mode of speech
Parlance is used to refer to forms of communication. According to one definition, it is a formal, organization debate. According to other definitions, it is industry jargon or vocabulary specific to a group of people, e.g,: ironworkers' parlance.
The act of parrying a sword attack
The movement of a word out of common circulation
A location where scientists and artists gather

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Female Enchantress When you ensorcel someone, you:
Get your revenge
Enchant and bewitch them
Ensorcel shows up a lot in classic fairytales and lore and it's not hard to see why it. It refers to bewitching or enchanting someone and can even translate literally into hexing or charming, with roots in witchcraft.
Insult their lineage
Challenge them to a fight or duel

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Big Window In order to practice defenestration, what do you need?
A cake
A door
A window
Defenestration is the act of throwing someone or something out of the window, in its most literal sense. It may also metaphorically refer to the quick ouster of a person, namely from political office.
A cross

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Robber A licentious person is someone who:
Disregards morals and rules
When a person is licentious, they go against the moral or legal code of their society, often in an explicitly promiscuous way. Licentious may also refers to someone who goes against the rules of a community, for instance, if a writer were to ignore grammar.
Mocks their opposing political party
Publishes seditious materials
Fights against an unjust society

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Leaning Tower of Pisa What famous landmark might be called catawampus?
The Eiffel Tower
The Statue of Liberty
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
When something is catawampus, that means it isn't straight. This can refer to anything from how the Leaning Tower of Pisa leans to simply walking diagonally across a field or lawn.
The Great Pyramid of Giza

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Waking up What position would you be in if you were supine?
Standing on your hands
Fetal position or curled small
On your stomach
Lying on your back with your face upward
If you do yoga or pilates, you may have heard of the supine twist, a twist performed while lying on your back and looking up. Supine may also refer to someone who spends all of their time lazing about.

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Demolition Which of the following is a trouvaille?
A horseshoe over the barn door
Artifacts found in the walls of a new home
A trouvaille is a lucky windfall or find. Its original is literally the French word to find and it can relate to artifacts like the kind found in a newly purchased home, oftentimes biblically related.
A sword used in battle and never cleaned
A first edition book from Medieval Europe

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Milky Way Which of the following might a person find ineffable?
The universe
When something is ineffable, that means it is overwhelming, most often in a positive way. The reaction, such as one might have to thoughts of space exploration or ocean voyages, literally translates into something that cannot be expressed.
A dinner menu
A newly born puppy
A walk in the garden

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Discolobus Where would you find a discobolus?
At a circus or traveling fair
At a Renaissance or Medieval reenactment
In a science lab or place of discovery
At an Olympic game
Discobolus comes from the Greek and Latin terms for both "disc" and "throw," which makes it easy to see why the word literally translates to "disc thrower" as you would find in the early Olympics.

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Eclipse When might a syzygy occur?
When there are three sets of double letters in a word.
When a person receives a degree
During a lunar or solar eclipse
A syzygy refers to the configuration of three celestial bodies into a straight or near straight line. During a solar or lunar eclipse, that would be the earth, the sun and the moon.
When the temperature drops below freezing.

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Calm woman If you are adroit, how do you handle a situation?
You panic and worry and struggle.
You act calmly and cleverly to work your way through.
A person who is adroit is particularly skilled at using their resources and clever thinking skills to manage tough spots and keep themselves safe. While they may encounter difficulties, they are usually successful.
You let others take the lead.
You have an out-of-body experience.

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Sunset Which of the following is the color vermillion?
An eggplant
English Ivy
A sunset
Vermillion sounds like it should be the color green (maybe something to do with chameleon?) but it's actually a bright red or orangish-red color. It can sometimes refer specifically to a pigment made with mercuric sulfide but is also a reference to that color scheme outside art as well.
Freshly baked bread

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Teacher Who is most likely to come across a cacophony in their job?
An elementary school teacher
A cacophony is the coming together of mixed and incongruous sounds so the final effect is loud, uncomfortable and difficult to control. A busy classroom might easily turn into a cacophony of noise.
A local librarian
A watercolorist
A botanist

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Orrery What does an orrery display?
The most advanced mathematical equation currently known
The levels of the ocean
The passage of time
The celestial bodies moving in the solar system
Orreries are beautifully designed mechanical models that show the solar system in motion. They were used to make predictions or estimate where bodies in space would be at certain times of year before modern astronomy tools came into use.

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Russian Sea What part of the world does thalassic refer to?
The skies
The seas
In both its Greek and French origins, thalassic is related to the inland seas. The modern version of the word dates back to the 19th century and it is rarely used in today's world.
The forests
The plains

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Are a violin prodigy
Walk or perform other motor skills in their sleep
If you walk or otherwise perform motor acts in your sleep like putting on your glasses or taking books off a shelf, you may be considered a somnambulist. It can also be written as an adjective or adverb.
Have been either to the highest or lowest point on earth
Believe they are reincarnated

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Volcanic Eruption When something is pyroclastic, what kind of natural phenomenon does it relate to?
A hurricane
A volcano
Pyroclastic flow is most often the result of a volcanic eruption and is thick movement of gas and volcanic matter after the eruption. It can sometimes reach speeds of more than 400 mph and can be very dangerous.
A tidal wave
A blizzard

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Man giving flowers What kind of ideas would a quixotic person have?
Political or seditious ideas or ideas related to rebellion
Artistic ideas, particularly in the fields of writing or poetry
Mathematical and scientific ideas
Rash and impractical ideas that might be romantic or chivalrous
The term quixotic comes from the character of Don Quixote, written by Miguel de Cervantes. The character has impractical and romantic ideas and is known for "tilting at windmills" because his ideals are not rooted in reality.

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Studying True or false: This quiz can help you to become more sesquipedalian.
True
A sesquipedalian is either a word or phrase consisting of many syllables or a person who uses many long words. When you read, write, and take quizzes like this often, you'll become more sesquipedalian.
False

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Bigfoot What might a cryptozoologist study?
Bigfoot
A cryptozoologist is a person interested in legendary animals, who studies and tracks them with the intent to prove that they exist. The most common of these animals is Bigfoot (or Sasquatch) but others might include the Loch Ness Monster or Jersey Devil.
Dinosaurs
Dueling History
Animals in captivity

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Foofaraw - Stress How would you use the word "foofaraw" in a sentence?
She was full of foofaraw and he didn't believe her.
There was a lot of foofaraw when planning the wedding.
Foofaraw has several definitions with common themes, but most often refers to "much ado about nothing." For instance, when something is overblown in the media or if a large wedding is causing everyone stress, that would be an example of a foofaraw.
Please pick up the pile of foofaraw.
He never learned how to foofaraw

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Never laughs
The term agelast is rooted in the Greek language and refers to a person who does not laugh. It also has roots in middle French and generally refers to a person who is gloomy or grave.
Won't perform in front of an audience
Refuses to grow up
Can memorize long numbers at a glance

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Blooming Flowers If a moment is ephemeral, that means it:
Feels like it goes on forever
Doesn't exist on a linear timeline
Lasts for a very short amount of time
When something is ephemeral, that means it is fleeting or passing. It is often something pretty or enjoyable that is made more so by its short-lived nature, like the blooming of a flower.
Exists in the past.

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Bee What kind of animal is known to bombinate?
A penguin
A bee
Bees bombinate! To bombinate is to produce a droning or buzzing sound. Word nerds may agree that it sounds like the word bombastic, which is a loud, high sound or statement that has little meaning.
An elephant
A turkey

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Time How many years are in a chiliad?
10
100
1,000
A chiliad is actually the same as a millennium, though the word chiliad has been around for longer. Both refer to "a thousand," millennium based in the Latin root and chiliad in Greek.
10,000

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Crystal Ball divination What tool would you need to practice catoptromancy?
Herbs and salves
A cauldron
A mirror
Catoptromancy occurs when divination is practiced with a mirror or crystal ball. It is also known as catromancy or enotropmancy and appears in both Greek and Roman mythology and religion.
A full moon

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Three Musketeers movie Which is an example of a gasconade?
"I couldn't have done it without the help and support of my friends and family."
"You're incredibly talented."
"I don't know which choice to make."
"I was the best one on my team. I led them to the championships. They couldn't have won without me."
Like quixotic, gasconade also has its roots in literature, this time in the classic Three Musketeers stories by Alexandre Dumas, which features the town of Gascony in France, where the citizens were prone to bragging and boasting. Thus, the word refers to bragging and boasting today.

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