Boost Your Vocabulary With This Tricky Quiz


By: Teresa McGlothlin

6 Min Quiz

Image: Unsplash by Baylee Gramling

About This Quiz

sIf you're the kind of person who lives to confuse others with a new word, you've found the right quiz! We've scoured the dictionary for some of the trickiest terms in the book. You might think you're a real smartypants because you won the second-grade spelling bee, but how will your word skills hold up to these tough questions? 

As you go through our questions, you'll notice that we haven't tried to confuse you at all. Instead, we've asked straightforward questions, given you straightforward answer options, and even used some words in a sentence for you. Still, you'll need to eat some brain food and put on your thinking cap before you can get all of them right. We promise you tricky, and tricky is what you will get! Can you handle yourself like a walking Scrabble master, or will you need to revisit the words on the SAT? 

Take your time, and think things through before you decide to respond. If you need to consult Dr. Google, we'll wait. You really should try to answer our questions on your own first, though. Will you make yourself proud, or will you learn a few new words? Either way, it's a win-win! Let's see how much of a word nerd you really are!

What's a word for the outside front of a building? People can put up fake ones, too.

If you're standing in front of a building, you are seeing a facade. A facade can include windows, bricks, paint or other distinguishing features. When you step inside the building, you may be in the foyer, if one exists.


Fill in the blank: Katie's _____ nature made her a great dinner party host.

The word "genial" appeared in the middle of the 16th century, but back then it related to marriage. The current meaning, "warm, friendly and mild," is used here to describe Katie's hosting skills. You can use "genial" to describe either people or some inanimate objects, but you should save its partner "congenial" for when you're talking about a person's attitude.


The UPS driver always brings bones because Kujo is "inimical." Any idea what inimical means?

Giving your UPS driver a box of bones to carry on their route is a thoughtful gift. They often encounter pups that are territorial or frightened by the truck's noise. After a treat, many inimical dogs will tend to become friendlier.


The students thought the lecture was full of "circumlocution." Was it a short class?

Have you ever been in a conversation where you kept waiting for someone to get to the point, but it felt like you would never hear it? If you have, you know precisely what "circumlocution" is, without us having to explain it.


If you get caught up in "minutia," what are you dealing with?

The devil is in the minutia! In other words, dealing with minutia means paying attention to the smallest details. Don't worry — those minute details always add up to a bigger picture.


When you give in to someone's wishes, what do you do?

It might take some convincing, but when you finally give in to someone's wishes or demands, you accede. If you want to make it an even fancier affair, you could always acquiesce.


Which word means that someone is pent up with anxiety?

Have you ever seen someone watch an NBA game when their favorite team is playing? If you have, we don't need to explain "apprehensive" to you. You know what it's like to see someone brimming with anxiety.


Which of these people would your grandparents have visited for shoe repair?

Before the days of mass production, shoes were built to last and made to be repaired. Back in your grandparents' day, they would have taken their shoes to a cobbler for repairs. Cobblers were skilled at reheeling and restitching well-loved footwear.


This party is a complete "debacle"! What's the party like?

Merriam Webster defines debacle as "a complete disaster" or a "fiasco." Any party that might be described as a debacle has gone completely down the drain and will certainly end in guestless disarray.


Oprah is known for her philanthropic gestures. Which word could be used to describe her?

Those who were born with generous hearts can be called munificent souls, using an adjective that means "more generous than expected." Oprah is the perfect person to help define the word for you.


What's the right way to use "spurious" in a sentence?

No newspaper worth its salt would dare print spurious information. Although sorting facts from spurious — or false — claims can be difficult, journalists do their best to ensure that all information is correct.


Mark gave a "truculent" speech about his team's loss. Was it motivational?

Let's just say that Mark was feeling a little hot under the collar after the game. Throughout his truculent speech, he aggressively stated the need for improvement. Judging by his ferociousness, he wasn't messing around!


If Jack received "plaudits" for his proposal, did he win the crowd over?

When you think of "plaudits," you should think of applause. Just as no one would clap for something that they disagreed with, no one would give plaudits for it either. "Plaudits," usually used in its plural form, means "enthusiastic approval."


Why would someone say that Jason is a "garrulous" conversationalist?

According to Merriam Webster, the word "garrulous" means "pointlessly or annoyingly talkative." In this case, someone is most likely warning you to avoid Jason at parties unless you want to hear about his new shoelaces for an hour and a half.


Do you think you've ever committed "cupidity"?

Cupid is an adorable little troublemaker in the world of love, but he has little to do with the word "cupidity." Cupidity is another way of saying "greed," which is, in fact, one of the Seven Deadly Sins.


Julia adopted a stray kitten with "alacrity." What does that mean?

Julia met her new fur baby with alacrity! She doesn't have allergies, she's not in tears, and she's not afraid of a ball of fluff. Julia is simply brimming with excitement and can't wait to spend time with her new friend.


Where might you hear a "dirge" being played?

You would hear the sound of a "dirge" being played at a funeral. Also known as an elegy, a coronach or a lament, a dirge is a hymn or song that accompanies a solemn service or ceremony.


Fill in the blank: The ______ child was clearly in need of a nap.

Who doesn't get cranky and argumentative when they need a nap? "Fractious" is an adjective used to describe such a temperament, whether the quarrelsome subject is a toddler, a crowd or a politician.


Why would you question someone's "reprobate" decisions?

When used as an adjective, "reprobate" describes immoral behavior. As a verb, it means "to condemn something as evil or reprehensible." Clearly, then, as a noun, a reprobate is a person who is immoral or evil.


Which of these sentences correctly uses "surreptitious"?

Let's say that you need to get out of something, but you don't want anyone to know the reason why. That's when you make like Gavin and come up with a surreptitious reason why you cannot attend.


Mary took "umbrage" at Jack's comments. How was Mary feeling?

The longer Mary listened to Jack's speech, the more umbrage she took, even though Jack did not mean to insult her. Her resentment was evident to everyone in the room, other than Jack.


Which of these adjectives could be used to describe the British stiff upper lip?

What does it mean to have a "stiff upper lip"? It means to remain unemotional or calm; it also means being "phlegmatic." The British are known for their ability to keep calm and carry on, but we think they should say "keep calm and be phlegmatic." It has a much nicer ring.


Which word works best in the following sentence? Caren refused to ______ her belief in Santa Claus.

No matter how old she gets, you'll never stop Caren from believing in Santa Claus. She knows that other people buy her presents, but she still believes in the magic of Christmas. She'll never renounce or abjure her holiday faith.


What does it mean to "bilk" someone?

You've probably heard it a million times, but what does it really mean to be "bilked"? If you've been defrauded, hustled, denied rightful payment or otherwise evaded, you've been bilked.


If you're overhearing a "contentious" conversation, what type of dialogue are you hearing?

Whether you're overhearing a friendly conversation or a contentious one, you never know what you might learn. Unlike a friendly conversation, however, a contentious conversation is full of disagreement and unpleasantness.


You've just received an "epistolary" communication from your best friend. What did you just receive?

Your best friend has decided to go old-school with their epistolary note. Instead of sending you psychic vibes, they've sent you a handwritten letter. An epistolary novel is one in which letters tell the story.


Everyone left Beth alone because she was in a "fractious" mood. What was Beth like?

When a person needs space, they can seem a little fractious. In fact, it's easier to recognize someone who's annoyed than all of the other options listed here. When someone is feeling fractious, you'll be able to tell by their body language or spoken language.


How would you describe a conversation that completely lacks importance?

There's nothing worse than being stuck in a conversation that is pointless and meaningless. The next time it happens to you, signal to a friend that you're enduring the inane. With luck, they'll come to your rescue.


What's the correct way to spell the word that means "the ring of a funeral bell"?

You'll rarely see "knell" without the word "death" accompanying it, and there's a good reason for that. Whether it's used as a noun or a verb, the word is associated with the ominous sound of a funeral.


Louis felt like he had reached the "nadir" of his journey. How's Louis coming along?

You can't have the highs in life without experiencing a few "nadirs." Whether you call it rock bottom or you call it the lowest point, you're talking about a nadir. A nadir is also the point opposite to a zenith in a celestial sphere.


True or false: A "neophyte" is someone with a lot of experience under their belt.

Instead of calling the new hire a "newbie," now you have a fancier term! They might not take kindly to being called a "neophyte," but they'll warm up to your charms eventually. Soon they'll train a neophyte of their own.


Lamar considered the information too "tangential" to include in his report. What does tangential mean?

As Lamar was refining the text of his report, he needed to stick to the relevant facts. Some information, though interesting, was only loosely related to the subject — it was tangential to his point — so Lamar deleted it.


Kelly wanted to be "ubiquitous" in her office, but she failed. What couldn't Kelly do?

Even though she wanted to have a "ubiquitous" presence at work, Kelly faced a common problem. Our lives are busier than ever these days, and it's hard to be in a million places at once. We feel you, Kelly! Whatever you do today is enough.


Are you praising or criticizing someone when you "upbraid" them?

The teacher finally had to upbraid Sam over his disorderly behavior. "To upbraid" is a verb that means "to criticize." Although it sounds positive enough to be praise, it is quite the opposite.


How strong is the wind when a "zephyr" blows through?

Grab a mint julep, and head out to the porch. There's a nice little "zephyr" blowing through this afternoon. We wouldn't send you outside in a hurricane, but we do hope you'll enjoy the gentle breeze.


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