Do You Know the Meaning of These Long, Old-Timey Words?

Geoff Hoppe

You're going to have to think way back to the time before the Biblical flood story. Which of these refers to something incredibly old?

"Antediluvian" refers to the time before the Biblical flood and means anything really, really old. While Noah's Ark may have survived the story, this word doesn't make too many modern appearances.

Do you know the word that refers to someone who sells sewing-related goods, but also could mean one who makes hats?

The word haberdasher originated in trading of goods. Often it means a hatmaker, but it may also mean someone who sells men's clothing. Basically, they've got you covered.

Which of the following words means a flighty chatterbox?

A more modern word for "Fibbertigibbet" may be loquacious, though it's rare to hear that word too. Hopefully you don't chat too much to be called either. Though flibbertigibbet does just roll off the tongue, doesn't it?

A disreputable person who makes trouble all around town is also called what?

A rapscallion is a roguish, mischievous person with a bad rap. You may call your jokester friend this name, or the dog next door that barks all day long and steals your packages from your front porch.

Year is a synonym for this old-timey word. What is it?

Twelvemonth is an old word for year. It makes sense to call a year out as how many months it includes. Threesixtyfiveday doesn't have the same ring. What if April was called fourthmonth? That could get confusing come December.

Uncertainty is a commonality throughout time, but how would you express doubt in archaic terms?

"Peradventure" can provide a way to express an unresolved issue or something that is still up in the air. As an adverb, it was used as an alternative to "perhaps." Try mixing it up your emails and add some excitement, peradventure.

Do you know the word for the definition "anything elaborate or overly circuitous"?

Crinkum-crankum is a great alliteration of a word to use at the next fancy house party you go to. Add it to your vocabulary by remarking "that staircase of yours is crinkum-crankum."

Which of these is a fancy word for navel-gazing? Yes, you read that correctly.

Omphalokepsis means gazing at your belly button to aid meditation, or just someone who's wrapped up in colloquial navel-gazing. After your next yoga class, see if your instructor knows this type of meditative self-awareness.

A crowd of fans outside a Beatles concert would be described by which of the following slang words?

Legend tells us that someone named Braham the Terror made up this Victorian word. Ethuzimuzzy is a term to poke fun at a bunch of crazed fans or someone who's super excited about the next pizza topping.

You're learning all these long words, but what's the word for a long word?

A sesquipedalian word has a lot of syllables like "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." But you could also describe your grandfather as sesquipedalian when he tells his prolonged fishing stories.

You know that junk drawer in everyone's home, full of a hodgepodge of items? Choose the word that describes that best.

"Gallimaufry" is a word that can be employed to define anything from a clutter of junk in your closet to the patchwork quilt placed on your bed. Merriam-Webster simply defines is as a "hodgepodge."

Which of these is the word for someone who reads in bed?

Netflix and chill didn't exist before the 21st century. So people read and chilled in their beds, and those people are called "librocubularists." Hopefully you don't fall asleep with a book on your face.

From the Latin phrase "beyond the sole," which word means someone who talks about things outside their knowledge?

Ultracrepidarians are people who talk about fields of which they're ignorant. The more modern term may be a "mansplainer." According to Merriam-Webster, the story goes that the famous painter Apelles was judged by a cobbler for how he painted a foot. Apelles remarked that the cobbler was "beyond the sole" due to his lowly profession. That phrase in Latin eventually became "ultracrepidarian."

First used in 1931, what elegant word was used to describe a phenomenal booty?

If someone is callipygian, their buttocks are of an attractive shape. It literally translates from Greek as "beauty buttocks." Check out the Roman statue Venus Callipyge, which features a marble woman checking out her backside.

Who would be referred to as a pettifogger?

A pettifogger is a notoriously "petty" lawyer that took lesser cases. It more generally can mean someone who's involved in sketchy business. Similarly, its second meaning can refer to someone who is a quibbler over unimportant matters.

You would describe someone as barbigerous if they had what?

A barbigerous person has a beard. Though it sounds like Barbie, we haven't seen a nonbinary doll quite yet, though we bet one is on the way! For now, use it to describe your hipster friend, or your hairy brothers.

Take out your crystal ball to predict what word means "to prophesize." Which is it?

A prognosticator discusses what they think will happen in the future. Anyone can do it, not just fortune tellers. We'd recommend looking to Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog day to prognosticate the coming of spring.

Can you tell us what a pusillanimous person is like?

A pusillanimous person has no gumption and could also be described as spineless. The Cowardly Lion from "The Wizard of Oz" is pusillanimous at first in the story, and later becomes brave.

If you're going widdershins, in what fashion are you going?

If you're moving widdershins, you're going counter-clockwise. There's a folktale that said that demons went to the devil widdershins, according to Merriam-Webster. You definitely don't want to go that direction.

We hope your grandmother never told you that you looked like a tatterdemalion. If she did, what did she mean?

Ragamuffin is another old-timey word that could mean the same thing as tatterdemalion. Either can be used to describe someone dressed in beat-up clothing, who presents an unpleasant image.

This word is a throwback to before 1600 and could be used to describe a pile of things in disarray. What's the word?

Higgeldy-piggeldy means messy or not well-organized. According to Merriam-Webster's "Word of the Day" podcast, the word probably came from pigs, and the thought that pigs were disorganized and messy animals (in fact, they are not). When you put two words like this together, it's known as reduplication. We just hope you don't reduplicate your mess after organizing it.

If someone looks at you in a concupiscent fashion, how would you describe their intent?

A concupiscent manner is a lustful one. It's not only a word for a desire of being with another person; in the Catholic Church is is used to describe the inclination to evil and sin.

What did your friend just do if they absquatulated?

This old slang word is what you'd use to describe someone who robbed a bank and absquatulated with the money. Decamp is another synonym of the word, which means to literally take down your camp.

We're not making this one up. What does hornswoggle mean?

You've been bamboozled! Hornswoggle means to trick or cheat someone. Next time you're deceived by a friend, attempt to use this verb describe the horrible wrongs they did. They'll be so confused, they may just leave you alone.

We wouldn't recommend calling your mother this term. Do you know the definition of harridan?

A harridan is a mean, domineering, often older, woman. You know the Shakespearean comedy "The Taming of the Shrew"? This would describe the main character Katherina, who stands up to anyone who attempts to gain her hand in marriage.

A hobbledehoy person would most likely do which of the following?

A hobbledehoy (clumsy, ungainly) person would run into something. Remember the awkward teenage years where your arms seemed too long for your body? This would've described you perfectly.

There's a word for the crumbs and odd things you find in your pockets. Do you know it?

You'd find gullyfluff in pockets, often of young kids. We hope that nothing else but dust and crumbs was left in your pockets when you put your pants in the washer. Although that fresh-washed dollar bill is always a nice surprise.

Which of the following is closest to the definition of rumbustious?

Rumbustious sounds a lot like rambunctious, and you'd be right to notice that. It means disorderly and full of lots of noise. 1777 was the first known occurrence of this word, but there's no data on what caused such a noise to make up a word for it.

Do you have an idea of what sneeze-lurker does?

A sneeze-lurker throws pepper (or some dust-like substance) in your face, then robs you while you're distracted. As recent as 2007, pickpockets in some parts of Argentina were doing this very thing, only with ketchup packets.

Where would you appropriately use the word afternoonified?

Something "afternoonified" is appropriate for fancy, high society. This is a "victorianism," or slang of the late 19th century. A proper lady may have turned her nose when something wasn't afternoonified enough.

The word podsnappery describes how a person acts. What attitude does it define?

Podsnappery is when you're smugly interested in only yourself, and ignore the world around you. In Charles Dickens "Our Mutual Friend," Mr. Podsnap is a pompous character and this word was created about him.

When are you most likely to be gutfoundered?

If you're gutfoundered, you're starving. It probably is at the worst point as you're trying to figure out what you should eat for dinner. It comes from the Newfoundland dialect of English.

An acersecomic person is known for which of the following?

If you're acersecomic, you probably have the longest locks in your town. You're saving a lot of money by not having to go to the salon. Maybe you have tonsurephobia, the fear of getting your hair cut.

In what context would you use the term quockerwodger?

"Quockerwodger" is a political insult. It means someone who's being controlled by someone else. It comes from the term that describes the kid who pulls that wooden duck on a rope all around town.

Maybe an old term for a selfie, what is a gigglemug?

Gigglemug is used to describe someone's face when they are always smiling. Constant happiness does exist! We'd recommend encouraging your friends to have more gigglemugs.

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About This Quiz

There's a word for pretty much everything, you just have to know where to find them. One of the best places to look? To the past!

If you're a flibbertigibbet, you already know that words are imperative to communication. Plus, you probably have some impressive words in your back pocket to challenge your friends' vocabulary. Yet, you can always learn more. We think you need to cultivate the deep history words, ones that will make your friends think you're a wise soul. This quiz is more than just a chance to challenge your knowledge of the English language. It's an opportunity to see just how many old words might actually fit your day to day experiences. 

That may seem a little crazy at first, but challenge yourself: as you go through the answers in this quiz, see how many of them might apply to people you know or situations from your life. You might have to stretch a bit, but chances are a lot of these words (though not all) could still be reasonably used, even if you'd have to dust them off first. So what are you dilly-dallying for? Dive in and see the possibilities that the vast English language has to offer!

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