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Word Power: Test Your Knowledge of These Evocative Adjectives

Whether we seek precision, beauty or both, much of the subtlety of language comes from its adjectives. Here are some 10-dollar examples to add polish to your proclamations.

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Word power: StygianPhoto: Shutterstock


A: Stingy
B: Timeless
C: Dark and gloomy

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Word power: Dark and gloomyPhoto: Shutterstock

Answer: C—Dark and gloomy

As in, “Ms. Mariner shuddered as she entered the stygian cave.”

Find out why some English words have silent letters.

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Word power: InsidiousPhoto: Shutterstock


A: Indoors
B: Gradual but harmful
C: Strongly felt yet unexpressed

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Word power: Gradual but harmfulPhoto: Shutterstock

Answer: B—Gradual but harmful

As in, “The insidious effects of eating too much sugar began to show themselves in Arjun’s weight gain and lack of energy.”

Slang overload? These are the words you should stop saying ASAP.

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WhimsicalPhoto: Shutterstock


A: Unpredictable
B: Elegant and inexpensive
C: Fragile

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Answer: UnpredictablePhoto: Shutterstock

Answer: A—Unpredictable

As in, “Greer’s whimsical personality meant she couldn’t necessarily be counted upon to remain at a job for long.”

These words from the first dictionary no longer exist.

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VulpinePhoto: Shutterstock


A: Murderous
B: Cunning
C: Hungry

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Answer: CunningPhoto: Shutterstock

Answer: B—Cunning

As in, “Well aware of the suspected drug lord’s vulpine intelligence, the police kept a close eye on all of his activities.”

You’ll love these amazing facts about the English language!

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Adjectives: BrumousPhoto: Shutterstock


A: Foggy and wintry
B: Rough in texture
C: Obnoxiously loud

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Answer: Foggy and wintryPhoto: Shutterstock

Answer: A—Foggy and wintry

As in, “Knowing night would bring even colder and darker conditions, Ezekiel set out immediately to cross the brumous valley.”

Can you guess which famous authors coined these common words?

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Adjectives: FrugalPhoto: Shutterstock


A: Silly
B: Cold
C: Thrifty

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Answer: ThriftyPhoto: Shutterstock

Answer: C—Thrifty

As in, “Having seen that Carita was organized and frugal, Hélène gave her budgeting responsibilities for the entire conference.”

Here are the everyday phrases with offensive origins.

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Adjectives: InveteratePhoto: Shutterstock


A: Habitual and unlikely to change
B: Soft and malleable
C: Untested

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Answer: Habitual and unlikely to changePhoto: Shutterstock

Answer: A—Habitual and unlikely to change

As in, “An inveterate worrier, Roone had learned how to get by on very little rest.”

Consider avoiding these words that make you sound old.

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ThreadbarePhoto: Shutterstock


A: Self-evident
B: Shabby and barely adequate
C: Scantily clothed

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Answer: Shabby and barely adequatePhoto: Shutterstock

Answer: B—Shabby and barely adequate

As in, “Despite their threadbare uniforms, the tiny school’s track team dominated the meet.”

You’ll never look at these palindrome words the same way again!

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SalutaryPhoto: Shutterstock


A: Beneficial
B: Welcoming
C: Verbal

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Answer: BeneficialPhoto: Shutterstock

Answer: A—Bene­ficial

As in, “The difficult but salutary two-week training session turned Adham into a first-rate salesman.”

Admit it: you’re probably guilty of uttering these redundant phrases.

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ContumaciousPhoto: Shutterstock


A: Rounded
B: Stubbornly disobedient
C: Poisonous but not lethal

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Answer: Stubbornly disobedientPhoto: Shutterstock

Answer: B—Stubbornly disobedient

As in, “Portia’s contumacious behaviour left her daycare workers little choice but to call her parents.”

Can you pass this quiz of fourth grade spelling words?

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FecklessPhoto: Shutterstock


A: Lacking poise
B: Ineffectual and irresponsible
C: Without skin blemishes

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Ineffectual and irresponsiblePhoto: Shutterstock

Answer: B—Ineffectual and irresponsible

As in, “Boonsri complained about her feckless brother who never seemed to get anything done.”

Here are the hardest English words to pronounce.

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DilatoryPhoto: Shutterstock


A: Rundown
B: Chatty
C: Tending to cause delay

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Tending to cause delayPhoto: Shutterstock

Answer: C—Tending to cause delay

As in, “It appeared to Henry that the airport’s customs had been set up in the most dilatory way possible.”

Take to the skies without leaving your chair by answering these aviation terms!

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FastidiousPhoto: Shutterstock


A: Attentive to detail
B: Dietary
C: Recklessly rapid

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Attentive to detailPhoto: Shutterstock

Answer: A—Attentive to detail

As in, “Raoul’s fastidious reporting won high praise from his demanding editor.”

Check out the English words that have different meanings in other languages.

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BelligerentPhoto: Shutterstock


A: Relating to the sea
B: Exhibiting hostility
C: In a state of disrepair

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Answer: Exhibiting hostilityPhoto: Shutterstock

Answer: B—Exhibiting hostility

As in, “The school principal’s belligerent behaviour toward parents led to her removal.”

These slang words from the 1920s are worth bringing back!

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EarnestPhoto: Shutterstock


A: serious and sincere
B: wealthy
C: overly generous

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Answer: Serious and sincerePhoto: Shutterstock

Answer: A—Serious and sincere

As in, “Wei took an earnest approach to each and every issue raised by workers.”

Next, test your knowledge of these royal terms.

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada