Do You Think You Know The Meaning Of All Of These Difficult SAT Words?


By: Kennita Leon

7 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

The SAT is a standardized exam that is used for college admission in the U.S. The test was introduced in 1926 and has had many names including the Scholastic Aptitude Test, the SAT I: Reasoning Test and now, just the SAT. The test is now offered around the world and takes between three to four hours to complete. 

When most people think of the SAT, they think of the big words. Now the words aren't the most important part of the exam, but they can definitely bring your score up, which is why you need to spend some time learning them. But there are a few English experts who know what these impossible words mean. There are hundreds of words that may be covered, and we've chosen a few that'll challenge what you think you know about this language. Do you think you know the meanings of these SAT words?

These words start out at medium difficulty and only get harder from there. So if you're trying to prepare for your SAT, whether you want to find out if you've still got it, or if you want to prove something to somebody, then you've come to the right place. So, let's get started to see whether you can call yourself an English expert or not. 

What does "cleave" mean?

"Cleave" can mean two different things, although, in this case, it means to cut with a sharp object. It can also mean the exact opposite of cutting something apart - sticking to something like glue. You just have to know when to use which.


Which of these is the definition of "accost"?

To accost someone means to approach or confront them aggressively, which is why this word usually describes a confrontation. You can be accosted for a variety of reasons, like for wearing fur to a PETA event, for saying something which may have insulted someone or for doing nothing at all.


Can you tell us what "legerdemain" means?

The word "legerdemain" comes from the French term leger de main, which means that someone is dexterous or light with their hands. It can be used to describe magic tricks (literally) or to describe being tricked or lied to (figuratively). For example, when a magician pulls out a coin from behind someone's ear, it is an act of legerdemain. When someone tells you something that they know is a lie, it is also an act of legerdemain.


What's the definition of "interlocutor"?

Derived from the Latin word "interloqui," which means "to speak between," an interlocutor is someone who takes part in a conversation. This interlocutor can sometimes be the go-between person, kind of like a mediator in an argument.


What does it mean to "foil"?

You may be thinking of the aluminum material that we use to cook with, but this is not what we're going for. What we mean here is that "foil" means to hinder, stop or prevent something from happening. Another definition of the word is where foil can be used to show contrast in a way that enhances the qualities of another.


Can you match "adumbrate" to its correct meaning?

Not only does "adumbrate" mean to summarize or to give the main points of something, it also means to outline. The word "adumbrate" is Latin for "shade" - funny, because adumbrate can also mean "foreshadow."


Please choose the correct definition of "modicum."

"Modicum" stems from the Latin word modicus, which means moderate. Sometimes the word is used to describe "any at all," but mostly means a little or tiny bit. So, if you have a modicum of interest in a topic, it means that you're mildly intrigued by it.


Which of these is the definition of "hegemony"?

"Hegemony" is derived from the Greek word "hegemon," which means leader. The word is usually used politically or culturally to describe the authority, power or dominance that one person or group has over others. It can be used to describe the relationship of a debtor over a nation, a political party over a country or even a social group over an institution - like football players in a high school.


Which definition belongs to the word "compunction"?

If you ever feel compunction in your lifetime, you'll know that it's not a great feeling. Why? Because you'll feel deeply sorry about something, and it's usually because you've hurt someone or messed up pretty badly. If you've done something very bad and you feel no compunction, then that means you do not feel bad or sorry.


What does "gourmand" mean?

The word "gourmand" should not be confused with "gourmet," despite the fact that they both deal with food. A gourmet is a foodie who enjoys eating mostly luxurious foods. Where they differ is that a gourmand enjoys food but enjoys it excessively. The word is derived from the Medieval French word "gourmant," which means glutton.


Which of these is most appropriate for "nadir"?

"Nadir" is derived from the Arabic word "nazir," and means the opposite of or the opposite to. Most times, the word is used to describe the lowest point of something, whether it be the sea or a moment in one's life. The word also happens to be an astronomical term which was the opposite of zenith, which means high point.


Can you tell us what "defunct" means?

Defunct doesn't mean something that doesn't exist. Rather, it describes something that once was in use, but no longer is. the word isn't usually used to describe the dead, but rather, organizations, communities, projects and companies that no longer exist.


Please choose the correct definition of "mendacious."

When we say "given to lying" as a description for "mendacious," we're not describing little white lies. If someone tells you that something looks good when it doesn't, only because they don't want to hurt your feelings, that's not being mendacious. If someone tells you that something looks good when it doesn't, because they find joy in making you looking bad, then they are being mendacious.


What does it mean to "aggrandize"?

"Aggrandize" means to embellish something or to make it bigger than it actually is. If you're a fan of the Spanish language, this answer may have come easy to you, since "grande" means big.


What's the definition of "rife"?

"Rife" is an adjective that means "full of," particularly when referring to something negative. For instance, if someone were to say that the water is rife with crabs, you would not or should not want to swim in it. Words that rife is often used with are corruption, problems and conflict.


Can you match "knell" to its correct definition?

"Knell" stems from the Old English word 'cnyll' and is the sound made by a bell when it is hit or rung slowly. Over the years, of course, it has evolved to the word we know today, knell, but so has its meaning. A knell is a ringing sound made by a bell or otherwise (but mostly by a bell) which announces the end of something, but most particularly, the end of someone's life.


Which of these is the definition of "conflagration"?

A conflagration isn't the tiny fires that you make to cook food or to light candles. Nor is it the fire you bar-b-cue with or watch at a beach bonfire. A conflagration is the kind of fire that only causes devastation. A great synonym for this word would be "inferno.'


What does "enervate" mean?

To enervate means to weaken something. It could also mean to wear down, to bum out or to bore a person. As long as you weaken physically or mentally, you're doing a good job of describing the word. It comes from the Latin word "enervare," which means to cut from the muscle.


Which definition belongs to the word "pugnacious"?

Chances are that if you are pugnacious, then you'll definitely know what this word means. Pugnacious means that one is always ready for a fight - that you have have to get ready because you're basically on standby. While this may seem like a good thing, being argumentative or ready to throw arms can reduce your ability to make and keep friends.


Can you tell us what "munificent" means?

"Munificent" stems from the Latin word "munificus," which means generous and bountiful. Now, when we say generous, we don't mean buying a small gift for a friend, just because. We mean buying extravagant gifts for your friend, or endowing a charity, just because.


Please choose the correct definition of "arcane."

Something that is arcane is something that not many people know or understand. For instance, many people known the basics of the game of basketball, but only a select few possess the arcane knowledge of the sport and its history.


Which of these is the most appropriate definition for "dearth"?

This word may look a lot like "death," but it doesn't share its dark description. A dearth of something simply means that there is not enough of it. This can be as serious as a dearth of water, or something less urgent, like a dearth of sprinkles and cupcakes.


Can you match "obdurate" to its correct definition?

Obdurate comes from the Latin word "obdurare," which means to harden. Because the word is associated with hardening, it is also seen as a way of describing a stubborn personality. One could even go a step further to say that obdurate can describe someone who is stubborn in their wrongdoing.


What do you think the meaning of "stolid" is?

Stolid is usually reserved for describing people. A stolid person is one who doesn't smile very easily, nor do they show much sign of life. They are often expressionless and can be labeled as boring. So, if someone calls you stolid, know that it's not a good thing, unless you're into it.


What does "punctilious" mean?

"Punctilious" sounds like "punctual," right? Well, in a way, they are related, with the former being a bit broader. Where a punctual person pays attention to time and is never late, a punctilious person pays attention to all details. It can be anything from not forgetting birthdays, having a tidy room, being very organized, and yes, being on time.


What's the definition of "dour"?

Dour is mostly to describe bad moods or feelings, although it could be used to describe how a day went or is going. It is believed to have stemmed from the Latin word "durus," which means hard. This word can be used interchangeably with a word that rhymes with it: sour.


Which definition belongs to the word "tome"?

While you may use the word "tome" to replace book, the more correct way to use it is to refer large books that are used by scholars. So while you wouldn't want to say that your "People" magazine is a tome, you should use it when you have to pull out a historical encyclopedia of some sort.


Can you tell us what "quixotic" means?

This word reportedly stems from the Spanish novel that we all know and love, "Don Quixote," because the character was associated with unrealistic feats and acts of great chivalry. The word, which means impractical and idealistic has a shadow of romanticism in that the person trying to be quixotic will have unrealistic hopes and dreams when it comes to love and relationships.


What does it mean to "beguile"?

To beguile someone is to convince them of something or to entertain them using flattery. It is often seen as trickery because "guile" is Middle English for a word that involves deceit. As horrible as it is to be tricked, beguiling is not entirely bad, because you will be happy while you are being beguiled.


Which of these is the definition of "upbraid"?

The easy answer for this one would be to choose the hairdo. But this isn't that. In fact, to be upbraided or to upbraid someone is nothing nice. To upbraid means to scold or tell someone off. And whether you're on the giving or receiving end, it's not a good feeling.


Can you match "truculent" to its correct definition?

As if it wasn't enough just being a rebel, truculent people also live for picking a fight. They are extremely hard to please and love pushing other people's buttons. Our advice, stay away from truculent people, whether it be your teacher, relative or enemy.


What does "ebullient" mean?

Do you know what it means to be almost deliriously happy? Like bubbling over with joy? Well, that's what ebullient means.


What's the definition of "vitriolic"?

If you're thinking that vitriolic is related to the noun "vitriol," then you are correct. A vitriolic voice is mean, nasty and caustic, and can even me described as acidic. Vitriolic words have the power to break hearts, hurt feelings and even cause fights,


What does it mean to "capitulate"?

To capitulate means to give up. More specifically, it means to surrender under specified terms. What this means is that you're losing something you want and agreeing to something less than what you think you deserve. For example, you may argue with your parents until they capitulate and raise your allowance.


Can you tell us what "zephyr" means?

"Zephyr" may sound a very complicated word, which means something very complicated, but it's not. When you think zephyr, picture your hair, or lack thereof, flowing gently in the breeze. Fun fact: The word 'zephyr' is derived from the name of the Greek God Zephuros, the god of the west wind.


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