Can You Guess the Definition of These Words With Double Letters?

EDUCATION

By: Kevin Zed

6 Min Quiz

Image: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / DigitalVision / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Dual, replicas, clones, facsimiles, twins ... there are so many words that mean "double." From small, commonplace words like "add" and "all" to huge, asthma-inducing monsters such as "lipopolysaccharide" and "immunofluorescence," these pesky double letters are alive and well, found in even the most unsuspecting syllables. With estimates that there are as many as 470,000 words in the English language, it's no wonder that so many words have a pair of twins. They're also the cause of many failed spelling tests and countless squiggly lines in Microsoft Word, but that's a discussion for another day. 

Regardless of how you feel about them, it's always a good idea to bolster your vocabulary, and this quiz is full of definitions aching for a word or words aching for a definition. And to get you ready, here's a sentence only containing double letters: "All successful quizzes need accomplished, exceptionally affirmative intellectuals." We have no doubt that you are, in fact, a successful, exceptionally affirmative intellectual, and you'll be doing twice the celebrating when you're done.

Fun fact: This blurb contains sixteen cases of double letters, not including this sentence and the already identified words. Do you think you can find them? (Hint: repeated words and contractions count.)

Your friend is chewing gum at irregular intervals. How are they chewing?

Unintelligibly means "incomprehensible," so in the words of Simon Cowell, "It's a no from me." If talking about syntax, use the third option. If discussing something related to differences, to nobody's surprise, use "differentially."

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Your dentist tells you he hopes you have a "quintessentially good weekend." What is he hoping for?

Plot twist: "Weekend" is also a double-letter word, but let's focus on "quintessential." While a busy, intellectually stimulating weekend that contains no wasted time might be your dentist's concept of a quintessential Saturday and Sunday, the word denotes the perfect representation of something.

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What's a synonym for "unambiguously"?

When something is equivocal, it's open to interpretation. Hence, adding the prefix "un" renders it closed to interpretation or ... drum roll ... unambiguous. Something could be intrinsically unequivocal, meaning that it's inherently unambiguous.

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Which word isn't used correctly? "She categorically and symmetrically denies ever surreptitiously eating Beth's lasagna. She said this emphatically."

"Symmetrically" refers to symmetry, which doesn't make sense in this context. All these words sound out of place, but "categorically" is another way of saying "explicitly" or "unambiguously," and "surreptitiously" denotes secretiveness. If saying something forcefully or with emphasis, use "emphatically."

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Two disputing parties have finally settled their differences and established a good relationship again. Which word describes this situation?

"Scintillation" indicates a sparkle of light or a flash, and "incommunicado" is quite the opposite of what's needed for a rapprochement — it refers to the inability to communicate. An approximation is something that's similar but not identical to another thing.

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Sometimes you have to confirm something, like an account of an incident or a theory. Do you know which option describes this?

Often used in legal settings, "corroborate" sounds a lot like "collaborate" (a fellow double-lettered word). You can remember its definition by noting that situations requiring corroboration, like confirming that a witness's testimony is true, probably involve multiple people, similar to a collaboration.

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Also known as a hillock or hump, can you tell us which answer denotes a little mound or hill?

With enough rupees, the Indian currency, you might be able to buy your own knoll, or maybe even a farm, where you'd undoubtedly accrue a lot of chaff, also known as corn and seed husks. Or if you're more of a water person, you could invest in a skiff, which is a type of boat.

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Which word is used erroneously? "Speaking in a gruff voice, she scoffed at the suggestion that she couldn't truss a chicken."

Gotcha! Or maybe you got it! "Gruff" refers to tone — a low, rough voice — whereas "scoffed" relates to what they're actually saying, and describes a scornful or mocking voice. As any Martha Stewart fan would know, "truss" denotes tying up a chicken before putting it in the oven. Plot twist: "Erroneously" is also a double-lettered word.

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Oh, snap, you're seeing double in the word "ghee." Do you know what it means?

Gee, "ghee" sure is an uncommon word, though foodies may be happy that there's a term for clarified butter. If you ever travel to South Asia, there's a fair chance you'll come across it because it's found in various recipes over there.

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When you want to err on the side of caution and be wary, which word do you use?

When something's amiss, or not quite right and out of place, you might feel leery. You'd almost be 100% leery upon seeing an adder, a type of venomous snake, and the leeriness would be in full swing if you heard a knell, which denotes the sound of a bell, particularly when it's solemn.

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E-mail attachments, little papers stapled onto a file and sticky notes ... these all provide additional supplementary information. Which verb relates to adding something as an attachment for more content?

Rest assured, college grads and students, now you know where the word "appendix" comes from. "Appending" and "affixing" have similar meanings, but the latter is more often used for physical additions. Saying, "I affixed the audio recording to my e-mail" would sound a bit off.

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Picture this! You're at your country house in Italy, enjoying the cool breeze, swaying grass and, of course, enjoying a tantalizing glass of red wine. Where are you?

While "hell" would've been a wonderfully sarcastic double-lettered answer, it seems unlikely that anyone could object to a holiday in a serene Italian villa. A lagoon? Different story. And most people wouldn't want to spend their days off in a quarry, a large pit where stones are extracted.

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Don't be alarmed, but you're seeing double the double! It's in the word "rudderless." Can you tell us what it means?

A rudder allows you to steer a boat, hence why "rudderless" denotes a lack of direction. Fun fact: "Rudderfull" isn't a word, which raises the question, "What's the opposite of rudderless?" The universe might be in perfect harmony if it turns out to be a fellow double-lettered word.

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There's a misused word in this sentence. Do you know which one? "Heeding the advice of her swimming coach, she bought a saddle to improve her skills. She peered at it for a while upon buying it, not sure how to use it."

Indeed (another double-lettered word!), a saddle is a seat you put on a horse for riding. A "peer" can either be a noun, like a classmate or friend, or it can be a verb, meaning "to look intently or with difficulty."

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Double the trouble! Which of these two double-lettered words have similar definitions?

It's quite common to hear these two words in a negative context, like wallowing in self-pity or dwelling on an ex. The former has several meanings, and often refers to rolling around lazily, or becoming engrossed and overindulgent. Comparatively, "dwell" can indicate living somewhere, like "I dwell in this house," or excessively focusing your attention on something.

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Don't let this quiz take a toll on you, but can you tell us what an "atoll" is?

Say what? By some estimates, there are 439 atolls in the world, several located in the Pacific and Caribbean. Atolls can even be countries, with the Maldives and the Marshall Islands serving as examples.

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Files, reports, case histories ... so many papers, but there's only one word here to describe a collection of documents. Which one is it?

You might find a dossier in a coffer — a small chest or strongbox for holding possessions. It would be a little weirder to find it in a paddock, which is a closed field for horses. In a strange stroke of randomness, you might find a dossier about terriers, a type of dog breed.

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It takes two to tango. Which pair of words are the most similar?

Callousness indicates having a disregard for others and lacking sympathy. In case you're wondering, a lattice is that rectangular or square structure you often see in backyards and on top of fences, consisting of thin strips of wood that interlace and create see-through diamonds.

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We all aim to live our best life, even if that involves indecent amounts of chocolate. Can you tell us which choice describes a joyful and picturesque time or location?

"Idly" looks a lot like the right answer, but it refers to doing something lazily or without a specific underlying reason. The last two answers have similar definitions, with "blotted" meaning "stained or marked" and "mottled" indicating essentially the same thing but with different colors.

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Opposites attract, even with double-lettered words. Which pair of words have opposite meanings?

"Assent" means "to agree or approve," whereas "dissent" refers to having a countering opinion, hence the term "dissident." People often confuse "dissent" with "descent" and "assent" with "ascent," but you'll now dissent when people improperly use "assent."

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Can you tell us which word is wrong here? "I planted evergreens, but a guerrilla ate them. This issue was immaterial, however, because I just planted some more."

"Guerrilla" is a homophone with "gorilla," a fellow double-lettered word with a different meaning. The former is about a small, and usually independent, group that partakes in warfare, whereas the latter is the animal.

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There are about as many emotions in the world as there are words. What's the definition of "impassioned"?

Nobody's blaming you if you're confused. Usually, adverbs starting in "im" denote a lack of something, but "impassioned" actually indicates the opposite. Even the adjective "dispassionate" doesn't mean "not passionate," it relates to not being easily influenced by emotions. An appropriate adjective to describe a lack of passion would be "indifferent" or something associated with disinterest and detachment.

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College professors have a lot to put up with, but their job comes with a lot of perks, too. Do you know the meaning of "sabbatical"?

Sabbaticals apply to other jobs, too, but are often associated with college professors. The word relates to the Sabbath, reflecting the relaxation period observed by some major religions.

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Opposites don't always attract. Which two words are the most unrelated?

Eccentricity is often affiliated with unconventionality and strangeness, whereas diffidence — easily confused with "difference" — is about shyness and modesty, oftentimes due to poor self-confidence.

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Whether doing it online or in person, filling out job applications can be a pain. Salaries are often described as "commensurate with experience." What does this mean?

The first answer is technically correct, but it's more accurate to say that the salary is proportionate to experience, not merely relying on it. Did you notice that "applications" is another double-lettered word in this saga?

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Anomaly, outlier, deviation ... there are so many words to describe something that counters the norm. Which double-lettered word has this definition?

Yes, "zooplankton" is actually a word, referring to a type of plankton, the small organisms that live in aquatic habitats. But back to "aberration," the star of the show. It often has a negative connotation, describing something that's atypical, but in a bad way.

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Time for some biology! Where is the hippocampus located?

Honestly, nobody's blaming you if you read "hippocampus" as "hippopotamus." It's a small organ that helps create long-term memories and facilitates spatial retention so you can remember how to navigate various places

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Swings go up then down, a pendulum moves from left to right, and sometimes the wind makes you sway. What word describes the phenomenon of going back and forth at regular intervals?

The verbal counterpart is "to oscillate," and the adjective is "oscillatory." There's even a similar-sounding noun — an oscillator — but it's a type of device for creating electric currents that oscillate.

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Oh, no! A word here is misused. Which one? "This centennial marks the 50th anniversary of when our downtrodden ancestors rebelled against tyranny and won their concessions."

A centennial relates to the 100th anniversary of something, not the 50th. "Downtrodden" describes being oppressed or treated badly, and "concessions" in this context are things that are permitted or given, but can also refer to declaring defeat or admitting to the validity of an opposing party's point in an argument.

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We all break the rules sometimes. Do you know the answer that refers to an offense that goes against a rule or law?

You can remember this answer by noting that the prefix "trans" relates to going across, beyond or through something, so committing a transgression is like going beyond the rules and defying them.

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Many books and movies contain deeper meanings. Which answer describes a work of literature, film or art that features an underlying message?

An allegory is very much a metaphor, but the two differ in that the first is a complete narrative whereas the second is just a phrase or figure of speech. "Metallurgy" resembles a combination of the two, but is a type of science related to metals.

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Who doesn't love a good seminar? Which option is defined as "an academic seminar or conference"?

The conference may have released communique, a type of announcement and official communication, to share essential information. You'd also need admittance before the colloquium, which indicates entering or being permitted to enter a venue. Annotations are also popular in academia and are explanatory notes or comments added to an image or text.

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Sometimes, life is about taking two steps forward and one step back. Which word refers to reverting to a past, less developed state?

While "digression" and "regression" look alike, the first is a deviation from the main subject of a speech or written piece. You can remember "regression" by noting that it's similar to "progression," except the two are opposites.

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Which of these is an antonym of "aggravate"?

"To disaffect" is a verb indicating dissatisfaction with and alienation from an organization or authority, which can lead to aggravation. "To desiccate" denotes the removal of moisture or the drying up of something, thereby worsening its aridity. And "to commiserate" is all about sympathizing, something that is helpful, but doesn't directly relieve aggravation.

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Do you know which word here is used incorrectly? "After divvying up the pizza, they watched the beach's water ebb."

"Divvying," which may or may not look like a Harry Potter spell, is just another way of saying "share and divide." Everyone knows what a pizza is, though the word "divvying" may have made you suspect it doesn't belong. "Ebbing" refers to a tide's receding from the land.

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