Can You Ace This Difficult SAT Vocabulary Test?

By: Torrance Grey

Can You Ace This Difficult SAT Vocabulary Test?
Image: Getty Images via Doug Wenjie

About This Quiz

Calling all language lovers, word nerds and amateur etymologists! Are you ready to test your vocabulary against our 35-question quiz?

Vocabulary -- or, more broadly, language skills -- is only one-half of the SAT. The other half is mathematics, and frankly, that's the part that most people have more trepidation about taking. (Sidenote: If you didn't recognize "trepidation" as a synonym for "anxiety," that might not bode well for your performance on this quiz! But we digress.) Vocabulary is the part of the SATs which, for many people, translates to a needed real-world skill. That is, relatively few people will need to find the area of a cylinder in real life. But the ability to choose the right word in an application essay, or on a resume, is vital. Likewise, misusing a word in conversation is likely to make you look stupid in front of someone you might want to impress. For example, saying "cursory" when you mean "foulmouthed" is a faux pas in front of someone who knows that cursory means "brief and simple." 

Our quiz will test you on your knowledge of English's harder terms. Along the way, we'll share some interesting trivia about the roots, often Latin, of these words. Even if you don't score as well as you like, you'll undoubtedly learn something along the way!


What does "deluge" mean?
escape
flood
You might know the French phrase, "Apres moi, le deluge" ("After me, the flood"). It means that the person sees himself/herself as the only one holding off disaster, or does not care about the disaster which will follow their withdrawal from a a situation.
serious crime
ascent

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Pick the best definition of "chasten."
admonish
Is "chasten," meaning to "admonish" or "dress down," related to "chaste," meaning "sexually pure"? It looks like it, but not really. The first comes from the Latin "castigare," meaning "to punish," while the second is from "castus," Latin for "pure."
follow
brighten up
leave behind

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Which of these is a synonym for "prowess"?
ailment
excellence
You might hear this word as, ahem, "sexual prowess." But it can refer to skill in any field.
plan or idea
shortness of stature

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Which of these is the best definition of "adhere"?
comprehend
follow or stick to
A common use of this is the phrase "adhering to the rules." A noun form, "adhesive," is more literal -- it actually means a substance like glue.
like or love
take away

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What does "to attest" mean?
to feel bad
to lie
to sleep
to swear
Technically, "attest" is a little less serious than "swear." The latter term implies that you're under oath, or that there's a serious consequence for lying. "Attest" is a bit more casual in its use.

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When it does not mean "a building," what is the meaning of "facility"?
competence
To understand this, you have to go back to the Latin root, "facilis," meaning "easy." A person who has a facility with numbers is good at math. So how'd it become "a building"? Well, a "facility" isn't just any building -- a house doesn't count. It's a building set up so that you can get things done there. For example, a gym is a sports-and-recreation facility.
speed
personality
reassurance

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What does "indeterminate" mean?
irresponsible
immature
not certain or clear
Here's an example that might clear things up. "A toddler of indeterminate gender, wearing a blue onesie, sat in the high chair."
not successful

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Something "avian" is like a ...
bird
This was probably an easy one if you thought of "aviation." Both have their roots in the Latin "avis," for "bird."
cow
goat
horse

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If you have "rectified" something, what have you done to it?
enjoyed it
fixed it
"Rectify" is related to both "correct" and "recto," the latter being a term for a right-hand page in an open book. So it all stems from the archaic idea that "right" stands for something good, while "left" is strange, untrustworthy. It's a weird superstition, eh?
prevented it
lost it

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What does "intersperse" mean?
astronomical in nature
to feed sparingly
to rewrite
to spread randomly
For example: "Some green-and-yellow clad Oregon fans were interspersed among the blue-and-gold Cal supporters."

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Something "discordant" is what?
hard to see
jarring
"Discord" generally means "disagreement." "Discordant" is often used figuratively, as in "a discordant note of acid green in a silver-and-white color scheme."
liberating
unexplained

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Which of these is the best synonym for "triune"?
having only one part
having three aspects or parts
This is just a fancy way of saying "three-part." In past decades, the theory of the "triune brain" was popular; it suggested that humans had remnants of a reptilian and mammalian brain under our advanced homo sapiens neocortex. This has been cast into doubt in recent years.
newsworthy
sad

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What is a "milieu"?
a comfort zone
More broadly, a "milieu" can be a setting for an action or event. But it's often used as "the place where [a particular person] feels most comfortable and/or does their work."
a hatmaker's shop
an opening anecdote
a closing anecdote

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Something or someone "parched" is ...
dried out
Usually, when people are referred to as "parched," it just means "thirsty." At least, we hope they haven't dried up as literally as the "parched soil" of a desert.
highly skilled
unskilled
immoral

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Someone "acquiescent" is ....
angry
loving
obedient
To "acquiesce" to something is to give in or succumb to it. Generally, "acquiescent" is used in reference to someone's behavior in a particular situation. A person who is habitually obedient would be called "biddable" or "tractable."
frozen

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If something "enthralls" you, you find it ...
enchanting
The word "enthrall" used to mean "enslave." Now, it's meaning is far more positive, referring to being charmed and fascinated.
boring
useful
upsetting

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What is the best synonym for "emancipated"?
consoled
feminine
liberated
You might know this from the Emancipation Proclamation in the Civil War. But it's also used in a legal sense -- an emancipated minor is one who supports himself or herself financially and is legally an adult.
masculine

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Something "spartan" is ...
bare-bones
This word comes from the culture of ancient Sparta, where warriors trained in very simple living conditions. If you're using this word in its general sense, don't capitalize it.
disgusting
disturbing
terrifying

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"Tenacious" describes something that is very ...
appealing
boring
honest
persistent
People are often described as "tenacious." But things are too, at times -- for example, a "tenacious defense" in a basketball game.

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Which of these is the best synonym for "sardonic"?
belated
hungry
sleepy
sarcastic
"Sardonic" and "sarcastic" are closely related. So what's the difference? "Sardonic" is a little dryer and more subtle.

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Something "spurious" is ...
amusing
false
"Spurious" is often used to describe a claim that sounds like it should be true, but isn't. You probably wouldn't use it about a child lying about stealing a cookie.
perfect
sleep-inducing

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To "scrutinize" something is to do what?
Hide it.
Make it dirty.
Look at it closely.
You might know this word better in its noun form, "scrutiny." That's something you might give an alibi, a car you're about to buy, or similar.
Pay too much for it.

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Which of these is the best synonym for "agnostic"?
atypical
fiery
persuasive
unaffiliated with an opinion or philosophy
"Agnostic" is most commonly used in terms of belief in God; in fact, this is often the first definition you'll see in a dictionary. But more broadly, it means that you don't adhere to any particular theory about something.

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What is the meaning of "emaciated"?
divided into several parts
well-educated
poorly educated
very thin
"Emaciated" is thin to the point of being unhealthy. High-fashion models come to mind here.

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What is a "lackey"?
a body of water
a game
a low-level employee
If someone describes you as someone's "lackey," it's time to look for new employment.
a piece of trivia

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What does a "hedonist" value?
faithfulness
intelligence
pleasure
"Hedonism" is a value system that seeks pleasure. "Epicureanism" is similar, but tends to narrowly focus on the enjoyment of food and wine.
chastity

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Which of these is the meaning of "duplicity"?
displeasure
discord
ambition
trickery
"Duplicity" sounds like it refers to two of something, and in a sense it does. A duplicitous person has a hidden goal they must hide from the person they are fooling, requiring them to have a true and a phony intention.

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Which of these is the best synonym for "dilatory"?
rude
kind
ordinary
tending to procrastinate
"Dilatory" doesn't mean "late," per se, but things that cause lateness, or hold up a process, as procrasinators often do. "She put off doing her taxes with a dozen dilatory errands, like dropping off the dry cleaning."

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What does an "intrepid" person lack?
fear
"Trepidation" is a fancy word for "fear." An intrepid person has very little.
friends
money
transportation

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A "voluptuous" person is what?
curvaceous
"Voluptuous" means physically curvy. For this reason, it's virtually always applied to women.
greedy
fearful
sympathetic

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Which of these is closest to the meaning of "mundane"?
common
"Mundane" is really not a compliment. Which leads us to our favorite use of this word: "mundanes." In the plural, it means "people who don't read sci-fi and fantasy." That'll teach 'em to look down on us!
funny
outraged
stupid

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Which of these is the best synonym for "lachrymose"?
causing or displaying sadness
This word is related to the Latin "lacrima," for "tear." Our favorite use of it was on "Xena, Warrior Princess" in which the show created a (fictitious) "Lacyrmos, god of despair."
confusing
lovable
causing or displaying jealousy

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What does "peripatetic" mean?
athletically skilled
of medium height
fun-loving
traveling often
Fun fact: There's a school of Greek philosophers called "the Peripatetics." This is because they liked to pace as they taught.

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Something "pragmatic" is about ...
mathematics
livestock
practicality
Either a person or a thing can be "pragmatic." So you can have a pragmatic solution devised by a pragmatic person.
drama and the theater

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True or false: Is "pornocracy" a word?
true!
false!
er, sort of ...
It's true that if you Google "pornocracy," hits will come up; it's said to mean "government by prostitutes." However, the prostitution in question is always figurative -- there is no historical government that was staffed entirely by sex workers!

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