If You Pass This Vocabulary Quiz With All Words That Start With 'S', You May Be a Genius


By: Zoe Samuel

6 Min Quiz

Image: Jacobs Stock Photography Ltd/DigitalVision/Getty Images

About This Quiz

The purpose of a vast and nuanced lexicon in a language is to be able to convey shades of meaning and precision that enable the best possible communication. Different words can have infinitesimally small differences that many people might not be able to elucidate if you asked them, but even if they don't know the words very well themselves, they appreciate mastery when they see it deployed in the form of perfect linguistic construction.

Good writing and great speech require a good vocabulary, not to intimidate or to dominate, but to communicate effectively. The goal is to be able to pitch one's speech at the level that is absolutely right for each audience and to be able to make use of all the linguistic and rhetorical tools  that a language can possibly offer. The long and short of it? If you want to be a great speaker or writer, you don't just need to be good at using the tools. You need a lot of tools to start with, and words are your building blocks.

Are you ready to test your vocabulary with the 19th letter of the alphabet? Let's find out!

Which of these means a peaceful scene or a tranquil state without anxiety?

Serenity is the state of being serene; totally and completely at peace. Example: After my weekend at the yoga retreat and a thorough full body massage at the day spa, I achieved a state of total serenity.


Which of these means irreverence toward something holy?

While what is sacrilegious is up for debate, the meaning of the word is pretty straightforward. Example: When I arrived at my friend's wedding dressed like the Devil, many felt it was sacrilegious.


Which of these means serious, or not intoxicated?

Sober means literally the opposite of drunkenness, but it's worth considering its uses to refer to the cold application of reason. Example: After a sober assessment of the situation, we've come up with a course of action we think will be most effective.


Which of these means loose and not tight or taut?

Slack refers to the part of a flexible object that holds tension. If someone loosened their grip on something, the object they're holding (if it's flexible) would go slack. Example: As I ascended the peak, I signaled my partner on the ground holding my safety rope to allow me some slack as I climbed ever higher.


Which of these means going in order without gaps?

Just as a sequence is an order of things, the word sequential is an adjective referring to things being in a specific order. Example: The participants were organized sequentially according to their age, youngest to oldest.


Which one means a petty argument or disagreement?

This word, which is of Scandinavian origin, according to Merriam-Webster, sounds more or less like what it describes. Example: At every Thanksgiving, my relatives and I spent much of the meal squabbling about politics.


Which of these means keeping things apart, commonly referring to race?

Segregation doesn't necessarily have to do with race, but the word was loaded with meaning when it was used to describe the policy of racial separation in the United States. Example: The country club was segregated, with separate swimming pools, locker rooms and drinking fountains for black and white members.


Which one means lots of enduring energy or strength?

Stamina is more than just fortitude, it's the actual ability to maintain physical or mental effort over a long period of time. Example: To win a triathlon, you need to have great strength of body, mental discipline and physical stamina.


Which of these means comfort and something soothing to one's misery or sadness?

Solace is the state of being consoled. For example: In these times of turmoil and trepidation, we can all find solace in the comfort of our loved ones.


Which of these means disdainful and ironic?

Sardonic is an adjective that refers to mocking something disdainfully. Example: I enjoyed Sean's jokes, but I never felt like any of them were made with a sense of genuine joy, since his wit is so sardonic.


Which one means delightfully luxurious?

Sumptuous comes to English from the Latin for "expense," thus sumptuous means expensively luxurious. Example: The box of chocolates was as huge and fattening as it was sumptuous and delicious.


Which of these means to leave, as in an organization or polity?

Secede, which means to separate from a social construct, has its roots in Latin. Example: The United States Civil War began when the South seceded from the Union, forming the Confederate States of America.


Which one means a pattern of colors, lines or grooves?

Striations aren't what you'd usually call the stripes on clothing, but the term is used very often in geology and science. Example: The rock formation contained many striations, dating it back to the time of the dinosaurs.


Which of these means very wise?

When someone is sagacious, they aren't just wise, they are in the know. Example: My tailor picked the perfect fabric for my new suit with sagacious accuracy.


Which word means a dearth, rare or not enough of something?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, scarce's meaning comes from the Latin for "to pluck out," but these days people use it to describe a state of a thing being very hard to obtain. Example: Juggling jobs are scarce, when there is zero gravity.


Which word means to fill to satisfaction?

Satiate can be an adjective that describes the state of satisfaction, or it can be used as a verb, to refer to the act of becoming satisfied. Example: After a long bike ride, nothing will satiate my thirst better than a tall, cold drink.


Which of these means sitting a lot, or not active?

Sedentary, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, comes from the Anglo-French word for "one who sits." Example: I like to go out most Saturday nights, but tonight I plan on a sedentary evening of ordering in, watching TV and napping.


Which one means the state of being below or a person who is in a lesser position?

A subordinate is a much more polite way of saying "lackey." Example: After the meeting, I took my subordinates aside so they could tell me their thoughts without undermining me in front of the staff.


Which one means to stun into silence, or knock out with a dazzling blow?

Stupefy doesn't necessarily mean to be made stupid, as the name suggests, but can. More often, it refers to the state of being astonished. Example: I was so shocked by my father's revelation that I was stupefied.


Which one means to reject harshly or with contempt?

Spurn may have its origins in many languages, as almost every European language has some version of it that sounds a bit like "spurn." All of these words literally mean "to trample" but can mean "to reject" in most modern contexts. Example: When larger companies came to me to try to buy-out my startup, I spurned their advances.


Which one means impassive and quietly accepting of pleasure or pain?

Stoicism was a school of philosophy popular with the ancient Roman set. In it, you do not betray your emotions to others, be those emotions good or bad. These days, it's usually used with regard to withstanding adversity. Example: Whether I'm getting bad personal news, or there's a downturn at work, I endeavor to remain stoic in the face of adversity.


Which of these means of (or relating to) apes and monkeys?

Simian means "monkey-like" in the way that bovine means "cow-like." Example: Without the use of ropes, John climbed the tree in a simian manner.


Which of these means on the spur of the moment and not planned in advance?

To be spontaneous, one needs to have sudden impulses that are uninhibited by things like, well, planning. Example: I don't plan my vacations, because planning means I can't be spontaneous.


Which one means run-down, messy or dirty?

Like many English words, this one comes from a Latin word that basically just means dirty. Example: The refugees arrived in the camp, excited to get the clean food and medical attention they needed, having lived in squalid conditions across the border.


Which one means something that is not growing or staying in place past the point that it should?

Stagnant can be used to describe the water in which mosquitoes like to spawn, or the point at which one's academic studies hit a roadblock. Example: Initially, my studies progressed at a good clip, but once I had to delve into trigonometry, I found they became stagnant.


Which one means flexible, both literally and in the sense of being adaptable to circumstance?

Supple can be used to describe the softness of a surface, the dexterity of hands and the moral flexibility of the less upright. Example: My new wallet is made from gorgeous, supple Italian leather.


Which of these means the descendant or heir?

According to Merriam-Webster, scion comes from German, where its parent word refers to the sprout or shoot coming from a plant. These days, it's used as a term for the children of a very wealthy family. Example: As the scion of a massive fortune, I worry that no one will ever respect me, because no matter how much success I achieve, my wealth will always overshadow it and make me look like everything was handed to me.


Which one means brief and concise?

Succinct comes from the Latin meaning "to wrap in a tight band," and that evolved from "things bound tightly together" to "words bound tightly together." Example: As we have a lot of questions to get through, we'd appreciate it if you kept your answers succinct and direct.


Which one means covertly going against the rules or established way of doing things?

Subversive refers to the state of being aligned with the overturning of the status quo, be it government, culture or business norms. Example: Due to my subversive, contrarian way of doing things, I was taken out of the pool of engineers and put on the skunk-works project.


Which of these means of the body, as opposed to of the mind?

Like many medical terms, this one has its roots in Ancient Greek. Example: My somatic symptoms were bad, but the psychological toll of being unable to play sports was awful.


Which of these means being very diligent and even-handed?

According to Merriam-Webster, the noun scruple, from which scrupulousness draws its meaning, in turn comes from a Latin word describing both a unit of measurement as well as a sharp stone or sense of unease. The word scruple has come to mean the morals that make us uneasy about certain behaviors, like a sharp stone jabbing us. Example: Scrupulousness is essential for any accountant, and especially important for one I would hire for my company.


Which one means not quite perceptible and on the edges of awareness?

Subliminal literally means "below the sensory threshold," according to Merriam-Webster. It is usually used to describe something that tries to influence one's subconscious. Example: The TV ad had a powerful subliminal affect on me, causing me to have an instant thirst!


Which of these means a group splitting into factions?

Schism and all its parent words mean some variation of "to split," according to Merriam-Webster. Example: The schism in the church meant the creation of several new sects.


Which of these means plausible-looking, but actually false?

According to Merriam-Webster, specious's Latin ancestor means both "beautiful" and "plausible," which says a lot about the word's meaning, as well as what Romans thought about beauty and lies. Example: I had to put an end to that rant on Facebook because Sal kept making specious arguments.


Which one means haughty or arrogantly disdainful?

Supercilious refers to the kind of arrogance that can't be ignored and is often derided for being over the top. Example: My friend Dan may be an investment banker, but he isn't supercilious, despite being surrounded by colleagues who all consider themselves kings of their domain.


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