Can You Define These Tough English Vocabulary Words?

Becky Stigall

Having a predisposition toward

A "predilection" is a predisposition toward something. This word stems from the Latin "praediligere."

Slow or inactive

The word "torpid" means slow or inactive. Torpid comes from a Latin word for "numb."

Following a set of beliefs

A "dogmatic" person follows a set of beliefs. The word has Greek origins.

A type of verbal attack

A "calumny" is a type of verbal attack. It stems from a Latin word.

A very skilled person

A "virtuoso" is a very skilled person. Although the word is often applied to musicians, it can be used for anything.

To split with a sharp blow

To "cleave" means to separate with a sharp blow. The word can also mean "to cling to something."


The word "shameful" means "reprehensible." Something reprehensible is typically not forgivable.

To credit with

"Impute" means to credit with. The word can imply credit, good or bad.

An appealing leader

A demagogue is a leader who is appealing because of a style of speaking. The word has Greek origins.

A denigrative remark

An "aspersion" is a denigrative remark. It is used to cast doubt on someone or something.

To spread negative information

To "vilify" someone or something is to discuss negatively. Vilify has its roots in the word "vile."

Bitter or malicious

"Vitriolic" means bitter or malicious. The word can also mean harsh or corrosive.

A bad omen

The noun "presage" means a bad omen or foreboding. Presage can be a noun or a verb.


The word "mendacious" means prone to lying or deceitful. The word refers to intentional lying, not "little white lies."

Stylishly lofty

The word "grandiloquent" means "in a lofty style." Simply put, the word "grandiloquent" means "pretentious."


The word "diaphanous" means "sheer." The word stems from Greek words that mean "visible through."

Blatant flattery

The word "blandishment" means obvious flattery, used to persuade. One could say it means "cajolery."

Foolishly sentimental

The word "maudlin" means foolishly sentimental. Soap operas and chick flicks are often maudlin.

To the point

The word "laconic" means "to the point." The word has Greek origins.

Enjoys good company

A "convivial" person is friendly and enjoys good company. It stems from the Latin word "convivium," which means feast.

To render impossible

The word "preclude" means to render something impossible, before it happens. Preclude is a verb.


The word "dour" means "ill-humored." The word has Latin roots.

Understood only by someone with secret knowledge

Something "arcane" is understood only by those with secret or special knowledge. The word stems from Latin.

Before the Biblical flood of Noah

The word "antediluvian" refers to the time before the flood mentioned in the Bible. The word is typically used to refer to something that is very old or out-of-date.

Someone involved in a lawsuit

The word "litigant" refers to someone involved in a lawsuit. Both the plaintiff and the defendant are considered litigants.


The word "ebullient" means enthusiastic and unrestrained. Exuberant is a good synonym.

A small amount

The word "modicum" means a small amount. It stems from the Latin word for moderate.


The word "commensurate" means "corresponding with." The word is an adjective.

A feeling of regret

The word "compunction" is used to indicate a feeling of regret. The word has Latin roots.

Appearing to be true

The word "ostensible" refers to something that appears to be true, but which may not be. The word is an adjective.

A typical example

The word "paradigm" means a typical example. The word is a noun.

Impossible to deny

The word "incontrovertible" means impossible to deny. The word is an adjective.


The word "candor" refers to honesty. "Sincerity" is a good synonym.

The lowest point

The word "nadir" refers to the lowest point. "Zenith" would be a good antonym.

Immature in behavior

The word "puerile" means to be immature. The word is an adjective.

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About This Quiz

There are roughly a quarter of a million words in the English language - give or take a few tens of thousands. We challenge you to identify these 35. Get ready to show us your word prowess.

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