Can You Match the Word to Its Definition?


By: Torrance Grey

6 Min Quiz

Image: Laura Kate Bradley/Moment/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Having a rich, well-developed vocabulary is not just the act of memorization. The knowledge and understanding of language is a crucial part of this ability. So much so, that vocabulary in and of itself can be a measure of intellect and is tested on most college entrance exams. Although this quiz is for entertainment purposes only, you may learn some interesting language tips along the way. It can help keep your vocabulary in tip-top shape.  All it takes is a click below to refresh your vocabulary knowledge. 

Do you know your Greek or Latin roots? How about prefixes and suffixes? Are you someone who likes knowing where a word comes from? Vocabulary is built on all of these things. In fact, learning a new language is easier if you understand the basic breakdown of a word. And with a strong vocabulary, most people find it easier to think more precisely and have the ability to grasp ideas faster. Whether it's defining a word, a synonym or describing a situation, you're sure to excel (a word that comes from the Latin word "excellere," "ex" meaning out, beyond and" celsus" meaning lofty) at this quiz. Take it now, and see if you can claim the Vocabulary Crown. 

If a task is "laborious," which of these describes it?

The word "labor" is an obvious tip-off here. Fun fact: In Latin, there are two words for work, "labor" and "opus." The former refers to the act of work, which can be meaningful or thankless. But "opus" is always meaningful work, and sometimes refers to a finished project (the sense in which we use it today).


What is a "creed"?

A "creed" isn't usually a single belief, but a group of related ones that provides a guide for living. Sometimes, it's a written "mission statement," as in "the Apostle's Creed." The Christian rock group Creed uses the name to refer to their faith.


What's the meaning of the word "sanctuary"?

You might have heard this word recently in the form of "sanctuary cities," or ones that will not give illegal immigrants up for deportation. The word had an original connotation of "holy place": note the similarity to the word "sanctified," and also the fact that the central auditorium of a church is often called a "sanctuary."


What does the word "manual" refer to?

"Manual" is often contrasted with "automatic," as in the transmissions of cars. The root word is the Latin "manus," for "hand," not the Germanic "mann," which is why the third answer option is off base.


Other than a quiz show, what is jeopardy?

Who isn't familiar with the televised announcement "This ... is ... Jeopardy!" So much so, in fact, that it's possible that some people have forgotten the original meaning of the word. The quiz show got its name when a studio executive rejected the original title, "What's the Question?" by saying that it didn't suggest "enough jeopardies."


To be "impelled" to do something is to have been what?

This word is related to "impulse." If you have done something on "impulse," you felt a strong, maybe irresistible, need to do it. Note also the similarity to the words "propel" and "compel," which also have to do with actions and the forces behind them.


Which of these is the best definition of "narrative"?

This word has become a favorite of cable news correspondents, especially those talking about politics, where every issue has a "narrative." In fact, it's rare to hear it used in relation to fiction anymore; writers and editors are far more likely to refer to "storylines," "plots," et cetera.


A "pugnacious" person is one who readily does what?

"Pugnacious" is derived from the Latin word "pugnare," meaning "to fight," and initially had a strong connotation of physical brawling (see also the word "pugilist.") Nowadays, simply being quick to argue, verbally, also makes a person "pugnacious."


When "project" is a verb, what does it mean?

You'll hear this word in relation to finance. For example, "costs are projected to exceed $4 million." In its psychological sense, people "project" ideas onto someone or something. For example, a person just out of a bad marriage might see a straightforward romantic comedy as being all about the warning signs of a bad relationship; they are projecting their own experiences onto the story.


Which of these is likely to "capsize"?

"Capsize" is a word with a narrow definition; it means "to overturn," almost invariably on water. A horse and rider might both fall while running a challenging steeplechase course, but you wouldn't say they've "capsized."


If a relationship is "platonic," it is ... ?

The "Platonic Ideal" is named for the philosopher Plato, who viewed attraction between souls as superior to attraction between bodies, and thought that the highest love was human love for the divine. This ascent from carnal to divine is sometimes called the "Ladder of Love" ... which sounds to us like a VH1 show.


What's the best definition of "nullify"?

If you liked math in school, you might remember the concept of the "null set," or one with no numbers in it. Similarly, to "nullify" something is to make it empty or useless, like a legal contract that is no longer binding.


What is a "sequence"?

You might have been tipped off by the similarity to the word "sequel." Fun fact: In film or TV writing, it is common to call a scene depicting a dream a "dream sequence," even though its action isn't any more sequential than any other part of a movie or a show.


If two things are "concurrent," what are they?

A fancier word for this, one which historians use, is "coeval." The simpler term "concurrent" would be used for something less important than a historic age. For example, "The new Avengers movie was so popular that it was running on three screens at one multiplex, more or less concurrently."


Something that is "inevitable" cannot be what?

In other words, the closest synonym is "unavoidable." "Evade" is closer, etymologically, but there's no such word as "unevadeable." Besides, it just sounds cool to say, "Let's just do it; we're only putting off the inevitable."


"Vanity," one of the seven deadly sins, is also known as ...

Vanity was a medieval sin that put man on a footing close to God (dangerous territory!) and put his mortal soul in peril. Or, we could just be talking about a woman's table and mirror, where she does her hair and makeup. Meanings change!


Something that is "synthetic" is best described as what?

This is a synonym form of the word "synthesis," meaning "blending or mixing." Something "synthetic" is a blend of two or more things, or an adaptation of them. So even if the blended materials are natural themselves, the synthetic substance is not.


What's the most accurate definition of "decrepit"?

"Decrepit" is used to describe objects as well as people (the second usage being much less nice). Something that is "decrepit" is worn down and in need of refurbishing to be attractive or useful again.


What is an "apex"?

You might be familiar with this one from the term "apex predator." That expression means an animal at the top of its food chain, one that has no predators to fear himself or herself. Polar bears are an apex predator.


Which of these is the best definition of "eccentric"?

This term comes to us from geometry. An eccentric line deviates from its expected path; many of the Solar System's planets do this, not orbiting the Sun in an circle, but instead in an elliptical path. Informally, the word has come to refer to a person who doesn't do what is expected of him or her, and thus strays from conventional paths.


The word "colossus" refers to something ...

Originally, this word referred to a giant statue, like the Colossus at Rhodes. This was a statue of the sun god at the mouth of a harbor, and was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Today, a mega-corporation might be called a "colossus."


Which of these is the best definition of "facade"?

This word has a literal and a metaphoric meaning. In architecture, a building's front is its "facade." However, a person putting on a brave face in time of trouble is also putting up "a facade." Whichever way you're using it, don't forget to pronounce the "c" as an "s."


What does it mean to "ghettoize" a group of people?

This word should be used carefully, as it carries baggage from the time when "ghettos" were neighborhoods that Jews were confined to in early Europe (as well as having a complex history in the urban U.S.) However, there are times when its use is justified. For example: "Coded praise about women being 'good at detail-oriented, repetitive tasks' tends to ghettoize them into low-paying, menial jobs."


Which of these addresses is an "honorific"?

An honorific is a title that implies a well-respected, often earned, place in society. Mr. Herbert studied to become an Anglican priest, and is now introduced as "The Right Reverend Herbert." The "Miss" in "Miss Eason" is a title, but you couldn't call it an "honorific."


What does "exceptionable" mean?

Don't confuse this word with "exceptional," which means "standing out" and often carries the meaning of "great" or "fantastic." The true meaning of "exceptionable" is related to the phrase "I take exception to --", and means that you're not pleased, or you object.


An "apparition" is best defined as what?

An apparition is something you think you see that isn't really there. In supernatural fiction, it often means a ghost, but in real life, it could be a hallucination. We like Ezra Pound's use of it in his haiku-like poem "In a Station of the Metro": "The apparition of these faces in the crowd/Petals on a wet, black bough."


Divination is a type of what?

Many different cultures have ways of seeing the future or remote events. Among the more disturbing? The reading of entrails, which involved cutting open an animal (usually a bird) and examining its intestines. We'll stick to tea leaves, thanks.


Which of these is the best definition of "assent"?

"Assent" and "dissent" are words for "agreement" and "disagreement" respectively. The word "consent" is related to these, but specifically means an agreement to do something or be part of something, whereas "assent" can be an agreement that is only theoretical, with ideas.


Which of these is the correct definition of "reign"?

We're obviously making a point here: Treat this word with caution! It's not too common for people to confuse "reign" with "rain," but they do, with relative frequency, confuse "rein" and"reign." This is understandable, as both have to do with forms of control.


What exactly is "iniquity"?

If you had a solid education in the scriptures, this was probably your time to shine! "Iniquity" is commonly used in translations of the Jewish Bible/Christian Old Testament, particularly in the books of Psalms and Proverbs. It's an old-fashioned way to say "sin" or "wrongdoing."


What are you referring to, if you talk about a "nucleus"?

This one might be familiar from high-school biology. Every cell has a nucleus, which is where DNA is stored; think of it like the "brain" or "nerve center" of the cell. As with many terms in science, this one has developed a metaphoric meaning ... in this case, it means a place where all the action is happening.


A situation that is "wretched" is what?

Either a situation or a person (or group of people) can be "wretched." Consider someone locked out of their home in pouring rain with no raincoat. Need to Know Dept: Unlike most shorter words ending in "-ed," this word is pronounced with two syllables: "wretch-ed."


Which of these is the best definition of "timely"?

This is one of many adjectives in English that are written like adverbs, with an "-ly." People will try to tell you there are only a few, but this isn't so. Consider also "kindly," "lovely," "friendly," "kingly/queenly," "manly/womanly" ... well, you get the point.


An action that is "untoward" is what?

An "untoward" circumstance is one that you weren't expecting, and are considerably less than delighted by. For example, sailors might face "untoward weather" at a time of year when the winds and conditions are normally good for setting sail.


What does it mean to be "zealous"?

The root word is "zeal," which kind of sounds like what it means, a let's-get-started! quality. We can imagine it being used in the old-school Marvel Comics: Zeal! as the sound of somebody rushing off to get to work. Sadly, "zealous" loses the long-e sound, rhyming with "jealous," and doesn't sound nearly so active.


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