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

Updated on February 8, 2018

“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, http://www.thefreedictionary.com/ and https://www.merriam-webster.com, 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. | Source

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

Rate the usefulness from most to least these words from the list.

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The Double-dreadful Quiz!

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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.

Questions & Answers


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      • Dunbar Green profile imageAUTHOR

        Richard Green 

        2 years ago from New Mexico

        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 profile image


        2 years ago from USA

        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.

      • Dunbar Green profile imageAUTHOR

        Richard Green 

        2 years ago from New Mexico

        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.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        2 years ago from The Caribbean

        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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