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Test Your Vocabulary

“One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.”
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

We try to ensure that our vocabulary tests concentrate on “reasonable words.” Do you know the ones listed below? The answers directly follow the quiz.

1. gratuitous

A) wide-eyed
B) generous
C) costly
D) unnecessary

2. vapid

A) cloudy
B) dull
C) important
D) fast-talking

3. harbinger

A) a port
B) a drunkard
C) a narrow road
D) a forerunner

4. jingoism

A) aggressive patriotism
B) mischievous behavior
C) extreme laziness
D) fondness for music

5. yore

A) a forgotten event
B) a distant land
C) a time long past
D) belonging to you

6. quash

A) put an end to
B) divide into equal portions
C) proceed with caution
D) collide with

7. ken

A) a shell-like exterior
B) awareness
C) a distant relative
D) brilliance

8. attrition

A) an act of acknowledgment
B) good dietary habits
C) a process of wearing down or weakening
D) fascination with someone or something

9. paucity

A) abundance
B) reluctance
C) displeasure
D) shortage

10. Pyrrhic victory

A) an overwhelming triumph
B) a victory that does not matter
C) a victory won at too great a cost
D) a victory by default


1: D) unnecessary. There’s too much gratuitous violence in that movie.

2: B) dull. The vapid lecture seemed to go on for days.

3: D) a forerunner. Some think a four-leaf clover is a harbinger of good fortune.

4: A) aggressive patriotism. It was an expression of jingoism, a hatred for all outside the tribe.

5: C) a time long past. In the days of yore, the internet did not exist.

6: A) put an end to. They moved to quash the indictment on which he was brought to trial.

7: B) awareness. These strange phenomena are quite out of the reach and ken of ordinary mortals.

8: C) a process of wearing down or weakening. The battle resulted in further attrition of their army.

9: D) shortage. The committee was hindered by a paucity of useful answers.

10: C) a victory won at too great a cost. It was a Pyrrhic victory—it was actually the beginning of the end.

Because of the e-newsletter’s large readership, please submit your English usage questions through GrammarBook.com’s Grammar Blog.

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With thanks to cartoonist Mark Stivers

68 One-Minute English Usage Videos

English In A Snap: 68 One-Minute English Usage Videos FREE 

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