Logophile Language Puzzlers: A Thesaurus Day Quiz

Test yourself this Thesaurus Day with a short multiple-choice quiz that will challenge your knowledge of synonyms, antonyms, and etymology.

A miniature globe sits on a thesaurus in a library

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Test your knowledge of lesser-known synonyms and antonyms this Thesaurus Day with the following 10-question multiple-choice quiz. Get 5 of these correct, and Peter Mark Roget himself will smile from his sepulchre. Get 8 or more correct, and you can consider yourself a living, breathing thesaurus.

Keep track of your answers and then scroll down to the bottom for explanations.

  1. Jeffrey is known for his rodomontade, so we knew his acceptance speech would be
    1. self-congratulatory.
    2. self-deprecating.
    3. humbly thankful.
  2. I was only 30 seconds late for class, but Mr. Grant sent me to the dean’s office. Mr. Grant is such a
    1. muliebrity.
    2. malkin.
    3. martinet.
  3. What does one put on one’s oxters on a snowy January morning?
    1. gloves
    2. deodorant
    3. sunglasses
  4. Erin pulled on her warmest coat because the weather outside was absolutely
    1. gelid
    2. torrid
    3. sacerdotal
  5. Jamal’s such a phlegmatic guy that when a belligerent drunk yelled in his face, Jamal
    1. punched him in the mouth.
    2. cried uncontrollably.
    3. calmly walked away.
  6. Margaret only wears jeans and T-shirts, never eats out, and doesn’t even own a TV. She is no
    1. ascetic.
    2. voluptuary.
    3. spendthrift.
  7. Annoying Albert always refers to the one time he                   as his “empyreal adventure.”
    1. went skydiving
    2. went scuba diving
    3. went spelunking
  8. Daniel the Diviner claims not only that he can tell your future by interpreting your dreams but that he’s the greatest                  on the planet.
    1. rhabdomancer
    2. capnomancer
    3. oneiromancer
  9. When Norman said he wanted a poikilothermic pet, Nancy recommended he get
    1. an iguana.
    2. a penguin.
    3. a cat.
  10. How often do we get to celebrate the bissextus?
    1. once a month
    2. once a year
    3. once every four years


Scroll down for the answers.








  1. a. self-congratulatory: Rodomontade means “boasting, bluster.” The word comes from the name Rodomonte, a character in Ludovico Arioso’s early-16th-century epic poem Orlando Furioso.
  2. c. martinet: A martinet is a strict disciplinarian or one who insists that all rules be followed to the letter. This word also comes from a man’s name, but not a fictional one. King Louis XIV of France appointed Lt. Col. Jean Martinet to train his infantry, and he demanded such discipline that the French army became one of Europe’s best.Muliebriety is an adjective meaning the quality or nature of womanhood, or femininity. A malkin, which is primarily a British term, is a lower-class woman, a mop, or a scarecrow.
  1. b. deodorant: Oxter is a Scottish and Irish word for “armpit.” (If you read yesterday’s In a Word column, this question was a piece of cake.)
  2. a. gelid: Gelid ultimately stems from the Latin noun gelu, which means “frost, cold.” Torrid, which is etymologically related to the word toast, means “scorching hot,” the opposite of gelid and not the type of weather you’d bundle up for. Sacerdotal isn’t at all related to temperature; it means “priestly.”
  3. c. calmly walked away: In ancient (and even not-so-ancient) times, physicians believed that excessive amounts of phlegm in the body caused people to be uncommonly calm or unemotional. Though science has moved beyond explaining human traits through imbalances in the humors, the language that grew up around the idea — phlegmatic, sanguine, choleric, and melancholy — survives.
  4. b. voluptuary: A voluptuary is one who lives in decadence and hedonism, concerned solely with luxury and physical pleasure — the opposite of someone living such an ascetic (self-denying) lifestyle as Margaret. The seemingly oxymoronic spendthrift is a person who spends money unwisely or wastefully.
  5. a. went skydiving: Empyreal is a synonym of celestial. When the word entered the English language in the 15th century, it referred specifically to things related to the highest or outermost heavenly sphere, which cosmologists believed was composed of fire (hence the pyre in the middle). In modern secular circles, empyreal takes on the less religious meaning of “heavenly,” that is, relating to the sky.
  6. c. oneiromancer: Oneiromancy is fortune-telling through dream interpretation. Straight-up dream interpretation, without the mystic divination, is called oneirocriticism, and the people who do it are oneirocritics.

    is divination through the use of rods, and capnomancy (also called libanomancy) is divination by observing the movements of smoke.
  1. a. an iguana: Poikilothermic means the same as ectothermic, which, in lay terms, means “cold-blooded” — it describes the circulatory system of lizards like the iguana, but neither birds nor felines.
  2. c. once every four years: Bissextus is another name for leap day, February 29. The first 365-day calendar, the Julian calendar, suffered from the same problem as our current calendar: The year isn’t exactly 365 days long! (This is back when month names made sense; the new year began in March, so December actually was the tenth month.) To make up for the shortcoming, just like today, an extra day was added to February every four years. But back then, the day wasn’t just tacked on to the end; it was inserted after the sixth day before the beginning of March, making it, to the thinking of the time, the second sixth day before March. So they called it bissextus: bis “double or twice” + sextus “sixth.”


How you did on this little quiz is less important than what you’ll do with this information in the future. Certainly Thesaurus Day — celebrated every January 18, Peter Mark Roget’s birthday — is a great time to work these wonderful words into your conversation, but why not do it year-round?

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  1. Well, I took the test and unfortunately flunked; getting nearly all of them wrong. Thank you though for providing the answers and explanations. I’ve got them in my spiral notebook now for future reference. You never know the time and circumstances when they may come in handy.


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