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50 Useful Words You Don’t Know and a Quiz You Can’t Pass

“I am, by calling, a dealer in words; and words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”

― Rudyard Kipling

Beloved Readers:

Here are some unexpected or obscure words we think you don’t know. We can’t get enough of these word compilations. We gathered the hardest words we could find, culled from years of reading, writing and word games, and purposefully made the accompanying quiz as hard as we could. Although the words are capitalized in our list, none are proper names.

Purists: we used our favorites, and, for the word meanings, but we know you have more dictionaries than that at home, so we apologize for being sneaky and using just the two listed. We did say we wanted it to be a hard quiz.

So many words, so little time.

So many words, so little time.

Quiz Details and Denials

Readers please note that although we have included the standard grade spread, we don’t claim it is an accurate reflection of your performance. We made the quiz especially difficult for our readers, who are a word-loving, hardcore dictionary-using bunch of people, so don’t take your low score as a black eye. On the other hand, if you score 80%-100%, we suspect you may have cheated. The quiz is very hard.

Now, by not cheating we mean we expect you to read the article and take the test. No glancing back nor re-reading the words and definitions before you take the quiz.

The Dreadful Words

  1. Abstruse: adjective ăb-stro͞os′ means a thing is difficult to understand.
  2. Agita: noun AJ-uh-tuh is a feeling of agitation or anxiety.
  3. Agonistic: adjective ăg′ə-nĭs′tĭk is striving to overcome in argument.
  4. Avant: noun A`vant´ meaning the front of an army.
  5. Avoset: noun ăv′ə-sĕt is any of several long-legged shorebirds of the genus Recurvirostra, characterized by a long, slender, upturned beak.
  6. Bedu: adjective ˈbɛduː relating to Beduins
  7. Braza: noun brɑθɑ is a unit of measurement used in Spain and Latin America, equal to 167 centimetres.
  8. Brio: noun brē′ō means vigor and vivacity.
  9. Brux: intransitive verb brŭks is to clench or grind your teeth.
  10. Cesta: noun sĕs′tə is a scoop-shaped wicker basket that is worn over the hand and used to catch and throw the ball in jai alai.
  11. Confrere: noun KAHN-frair is a colleague or comrade.
  12. Cuif: noun ˈküf is a stupid fellow, dolt or lout.
  13. Descry: verb dih-SKRYE is to catch sight of.
  14. Dorp: noun dôrp is a small town.
  15. Doughty: adjective DOW-tee means marked by fearless resolution.
  16. Equid: noun ĕk′wĭd refers to any of various mammals of the family Equidae, having a single hoofed digit on each foot, and including the horses, asses, and zebras.
  17. Fard: noun fɑːd is paint for the face, especially white paint.
  18. Finickin: adjective Fin´i`kin means precise in trifles or idly busy.
  19. Fou: adjective fuː means full or drunk.
  20. Foy: noun foi is a farewell feast, drink, or gift, as at a wedding.
  21. Fohn: noun fɒn is a fool, adjective foolish, verb to make or become a fool.
  22. Fogdog: noun fôg′dôg′ is a bright or clear spot that appears in breaking fog.
  23. Gite: noun zhēt is a simple, usually inexpensive rural vacation retreat especially in France.
  24. Haemin: noun hiːmɪn is insoluble reddish-brown crystals formed by the action of hydrochloric acid on haematin in a test for the presence of blood
  25. Iatrogenic: adjective ī-ăt′rə-jĕn′ĭk an Illness caused by the diagnosis, manner, or treatment of a physician.
  26. Ilka: adjective ĭl′kə means every or each.
  27. Jalousie: noun jal·ou·sie a blind with adjustable horizontal slats for admitting light and air while excluding direct sun and rain.
  28. Jefe: noun, xefe is a military or political leader.
  29. Kier: noun kɪə a vat in which cloth is bleached.
  30. Kurta: noun kûr′tə is a loose-fitting tunic, often extending to the knees, worn primarily in South Asia.
  31. Lagniappe: noun LAN-yap is a small gift given a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase or something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure.
  32. Maduro: adjective məˈdʊərəʊ referring to cigars, meaning dark and strong.
  33. Miaou: verb mɪˈaʊ is a variant spelling of meow.
  34. Nuncupative: adjective NUN-kyoo-pay-tiv refers to what is spoken rather than written, oral.
  35. Ogee: noun ō′jē′ is a double curve with the shape of an elongated S.
  36. Pelf: noun PELF is money and riches.
  37. Pyin: noun paɪɪn is a proteinaceous substance found in pus, and may we say, a sadly underused word.
  38. Qadi: noun ˈkɑ di is a judge in a Muslim community, whose decisions are based on Islamic religious law.
  39. Qiviut: noun kē′vē-ət is the soft wool lying beneath the long coat of the musk ox, valued for its use as a fiber.
  40. Quey: noun kweɪ is a young cow.
  41. Roto: noun ˈrəʊtəʊ is short for rotogravure, which is an intaglio printing process in which letters and pictures are transferred from an etched copper cylinder to a web of paper, plastic, or similar material in a rotary press.
  42. Roué: noun roo-AY a man devoted to a life of sensual pleasure.
  43. Sexto: noun ˈsɛkstəʊ is another word for sixmo, meaning a book size resulting from folding a sheet of paper into six leaves or twelve pages, each one sixth the size of the sheet. Often written: 6mo or 6°
  44. Tafia: noun tăf′ē-ə is a cheap rum distilled from molasses and refuse sugar in the West Indies. None of our readers would know this because they all buy the good stuff!
  45. Tegua: noun tā′gwä is an ankle-high moccasin worn in parts of Mexico and the Southwest.
  46. Teth: noun tĕt the ninth letter of the Hebrew alphabet (ט) transliterated as t and pronounced more or less like English t with pharyngeal articulation.
  47. Ute: noun yo͞ot is short for sports utility vehicle. The other “Ute” refers to a Native American tribe of the southwest.
  48. Vasty: adjective ˈvɑːstɪ an archaic or poetic word for vast.
  49. Vert: noun vûrt is green vegetation serving as cover or food for deer.
  50. Zeta: noun zā′tə is the sixth letter of the Greek alphabet.

Vote for Most Useful Word

The Double-dreadful Quiz!

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Dorp means
    • a thing that is difficult to understand.
    • a small town
  2. Brux is
    • to clench or grind your teeth
    • a feeling of agitation or anxiety
  3. Your cuif is
    • your hairstyle
    • your lout of a brother-in-law
  4. Fard is
    • an early version of the word "fart"
    • white face paint
  5. Your fogdog is
    • a bright or clear spot in fog
    • your best hunting dog
  6. Agita
    • is striving to overcome in an argument
    • feeling anxious
  7. Braza is
    • vigor and vivacity
    • about 167 centimeters
  8. Roue is
    • the color red
    • a man devoted to a life of sensual pleasure
  9. Lagniappe refers to
    • cigars
    • small prizes
  10. Quey means
    • a cow
    • a place to dock a boat
  11. Pelf
    • stolen money and riches
    • money and riches
  12. Kier is
    • a vat in which cloth is bleached
    • a kind of pear
  13. Pyin comes from
    • pus
    • Pine tree sap
  14. Nuncupative contracts are
    • worthless
    • written but not signed
  15. Qiviut is found
    • on an ox's underbelly
    • in good wines

Answer Key

  1. a small town
  2. to clench or grind your teeth
  3. your lout of a brother-in-law
  4. white face paint
  5. a bright or clear spot in fog
  6. feeling anxious
  7. about 167 centimeters
  8. a man devoted to a life of sensual pleasure
  9. cigars
  10. a cow
  11. money and riches
  12. a vat in which cloth is bleached
  13. pus
  14. worthless
  15. on an ox's underbelly

Interpreting Your Score

If you got between 0 and 4 correct answers: Start reading. Your score indicates that either (1) you were not conscious for all or part of the quiz, or (2) you may not have a heart beat at this time. Read a lot more.

If you got between 5 and 9 correct answers: Read a lot more and guess a little bit better. Stay awake through the whole quiz next time.

If you got between 10 and 12 correct answers: You scored the sweet spot. We believe you didn't cheat. We believe you are at least a word enthusiast if not a wordsmith. Good job! We invite you to challenge your good vocabulary by taking more word quizzes. See links to more quizzes in article.

Scroll to Continue

If you got 13 correct answers: This quiz is rigged for losing, like a roulette wheel. If you honestly scored between 80-90% without looking back or using a dictionary, you have our sincere congratulations. We invite you to take more of our word quizzes on this site. See links to more quizzes in article.

If you got between 14 and 15 correct answers: Nobody got 90-100 percent right without cheating on this quiz. We told you it was rigged. However, since you have demonstrated such enthusiastic effort, we invite you to take more of our quizzes. See links to more quizzes in article, and quit peeking. We mean it!

We can't resist noting that our favorite word from the list is iatrogenic. As always, it has been a pleasure tormenting you all with hard quizzes. For more, drop by and see us. We'll leave the site on for ya.

More Words


Richard Green (author) from New Mexico on November 30, 2017:

Thank you Flourish. I thought I knew most of the words until I started writing the article. I had picked them up from reading and word games over the years and was dumbstruck by the depth of my own ignorance when I started on the definitions!

FlourishAnyway from USA on November 30, 2017:

I recently learned of the word iatrogenic from reading a medical article about death rates. I knew only 10 or so of these words. Loved this.

Richard Green (author) from New Mexico on November 28, 2017:

I like jalousie, too. I picked iatrogenic because it seems like every pill today has some side effect far worse than the disease it treats. Thank you for your comment. I have another list coming out that I think you will enjoy.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on November 28, 2017:

I voted for jalousie as most useful in your list. Always heard the word but may have gotten it wrong if I tried to spell it. Not anymore. I learned at least one thing. Thanks!

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