Page last updated at 09:14 GMT, Wednesday, 13 May 2009 10:14 UK

7 questions on hard words


The film Synecdoche, New York comes out on Friday and the first word of the title is likely to have a few cinemagoers scratching their heads. We're assailed with difficult words, often with Latin or Greek roots, but how well can you cope with this esoteric selection?

Charlie Kaufman and Philip Seymour Hoffman

1.) Multiple Choice Question

Which word, used by one erudite newspaper columnist recently, means "blanched, colourless, pallid"?

Nicole Kidman, Marilyn Manson and Tilda Swinton
  1. Aestivated
  2. Etiolated
  3. Aeolian


Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch has recently suggested that his online newspapers could start charging for content, suggesting that the initial, undeveloped, disordered phase of the internet was about to end. He explained this by saying the internet was no longer what?

Rupert Murdoch

2.) Missing Word Question

The * days of the internet will soon be over

  1. inchoate
  2. Halcyon
  3. salad

3.) Multiple Choice Question

Which of these words refers to things that are boiling, or, as in reference to the two gentlemen in this picture, agitated, as if boiling?

Roy Keane, a pan of vegetables in boiling water and Joey Barton
  1. Exfoliant
  2. Ebullient
  3. Emollient
  4. Effluent

4.) Multiple Choice Question

It's not just Latin and Greek words that confuse us. Some of the German words we've borrowed for English can be a bit of a mouthful. Which of these is the snappy German word for "world view"?

  1. Bildungsroman
  2. Zeitgeist
  3. Weltanschauung
  4. Schadenfreude

5.) Multiple Choice Question

In the sentence "Nigel was a rather diffident sort of chap", which of these meanings best corresponds to the word diffident?

  1. Lacking in confidence
  2. Being aloof
  3. Argumentative

6.) Multiple Choice Question

In the sentence "Nigel showed his perspicacity yet again", what does perspicacity mean?

  1. Clearness of understanding
  2. Total honesty
  3. Good memory

7.) Missing Word Question

I'm flying high, I'm at the * of my career

  1. apotheosis
  2. apogee
  3. apocrypha


After tackling that lot, there may well be some difficult, obscure or confusing words you want to share with us. Use the form below to send through any words that make your brain hurt.



  1. It is etiolated. Aestivate refers to the summer version of hibernation and aeolian refers to the Greek god of the winds and thus to anything related to the wind.
  2. He said "inchoate", meaning recently begun, not yet fully formed or without order. Halcyon days is a term from Greek mythology about a period of good weather in winter to coincide with the nesting season of a mythical kingfisher. In English it has come to refer to a golden era. Salad days refers to youthful inexperience, although in the US it can again refer to a golden era.
  3. It is ebullient. Emollients refers to things that soften, effluent means flowing and hence waste and an exfoliant is something that removes dead cells from the surface of the skin.
  4. It is Weltanschauung. Bildungsroman is a novel about the personal growth or spiritual development of a young person. Zeitgeist is the spirit of the age. Schadenfreude is enjoyment of the misfortune of others.
  5. Diffident is the opposite of confident, so Nigel is a rather modest chap, who is unsure of his own abilities.
  6. It is clearness of understanding. Nigel might also be said to have great insight or mental acuity.
  7. It's apogee, meaning the highest or furthest point of an orbit, and therefore a climax. Apotheosis is the process of becoming a god, and by extension the glorification of a particular concept.

Your Score

0 - 3 : Rather diffident

4 - 5 : Not quite at the apogee

6 - 7 : Total perspicacity

For a complete archive of past quizzes, including our weekly news quiz 7 days 7 questions, visit the Magazine index and scroll down the page.

Thanks for your hard words we will be publishing a selection of the best of them soon.

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