Do You Know the Meaning of These One-Syllable Words?


By: Isadora Teich

6 Min Quiz

Image: Badins / Moment / Getty Images

About This Quiz

The English language is one of the most spoken languages on earth. It has picked up numerous words from places like India, Japan and more, and has roots in several European languages. It takes from Germanic, Latin, and Greek roots, which is why it can be so confusing. Knowing how to pronounce certain words and what they mean can be an unpredictable adventure, which is a big part of what makes the English language so interesting. After all, just because a word is short, doesn't necessarily mean that it's simple. In English, words don't have to be dozens of letters long to have a big impact.    

Since English has so many diverse roots deep in its past and has been influenced by languages and cultures from around the world, it can be tricky even for lifelong native English speakers. Whether words are big or small, they can be tricky little devils to get right!  

Are you a lover of language who is interested in all of English's tricky quirks? Do you have a handle on all of its strange and interesting words? See if you know the meaning of some especially tricky one-syllable words with this very wordy quiz! 

Which of these words refers to a period of 24 hours?

Day is a noun. It can refer to a period of 24 hours, or a period that corresponds to the length of time it takes the Earth to rotate on its axis. This word can also be used to refer to an era or a ​particular period of the past.


You can wear a ring but what else can the word ring mean?

The word ring comes from the Germanic root, "hring." It can be used as a verb and noun in several different ways. For example, you can wear a wedding ring, but you can also fight in the ring and ring a doorbell.


Quaint is often used to describe houses and small towns. What does it mean?

Quaint is an adjective with Latin roots. It is often used to describe things that are picturesque, pleasantly old-fashioned or charming. For example, someone might say, "That country cottage is quaint."


Which of these one-syllable words is a tall plant that features in many world mythologies?

In modern English, the word tree largely refers to woody plants with trunks and branches. However, in the past, it could refer to wooden structures, in general, or even the gallows. It also refers to a kind of branched diagram that resembles trees.


If rules are lax, what does that mean?

Lax is an adjective. When rules are lax, it means they are not strict or harsh enough. This word comes from the Latin word laxus, which means loose. In the U.S., it is also an informal way of referring to the sport of lacrosse.


If someone calls you an ace, what are they saying?

You might have heard someone described as an "ace detective" or "ace basketball player.". This means that a person is highly skilled in a particular field or activity. This word can also be used in terms of card games and sports, like golf.


What does it mean to chide someone?

Chide is a verb which means to scold, chastise, or reprimand someone. This word has Old English roots. For example, a teacher might chide a student for repeatedly not turning in his homework.


Which of these common one-syllable words has Chinese roots?

Tea comes from the Min Chinese word "te" and refers to a drink made by putting dried crushed plants in hot water. It is also related to the Mandarin Chinese word for tea, "cha." So, when you ask for chai tea, you are ​asking for "tea tea."


Of all of these words, which is one of the four elements?

Air is a word that can function as both a verb and a noun in a number of different ways. You can breathe air, you can compose an air (or short song) on piano, or you can put on airs, which means to be condescending. You can also air programs on TV or air your grievances.


People have mouths, but which of these non-living things is also said to have mouths?

Both humans and animals have mouths. However, the mouth of a cave refers to its entrance. The place where a river meets the sea is also commonly referred to as its mouth.


You can drive this one syllable word:

The word car has Celtic origins. It can refer to either a smallish road vehicle, a single railroad vehicle that transports either freight or passengers, the place where passengers are held in an elevator, or a compartment in an airship (dirigible).


To what emotion does the word wrath relate?

Wrath is a common literary noun that means extreme anger. However, it is important to note that this word is usually used somewhat ironically or for dramatic effect in more modern contexts.


Which of these words refers to the immortal and divine part of living things, but is also a type of music?

The word soul has several meanings in English. While there is the Soul genre of music, some people believe that living things have souls, or spiritual selves attached to their physical bodies. Art can also be described as having soul, which means it strikes an authentic and ​emotional connection.


Which of these is a synonym of the word "bilk"?

Bilk is a verb which means to cheat, swindle, or steal money from another person. Archaically, it was also used to mean to evade or elude someone. It is thought to perhaps have its roots amongst 17th-century cribbage players.


Which word means to conclude something, or the conclusion of something?

The word end has Germanic roots, which is why similar words can be found in English, Dutch and German. It can be both a verb and a noun. As a noun, it can refer to the final part of something, the termination of a situation, a person's death​ and more.


If Greg and Daniel cleave together, what are they doing?

Cleave is a verb with two distinct (and seemingly opposite) meanings. You can cleave something in two, which means to divide it into two. Two people can also cleave to each other, which means they are sticking together firmly.


When someone tries to raze a building, what are they trying to do to it?

Raze is a verb with Latin roots that means "to completely destroy." It comes from the Latin "ras-," meaning to scrape. This word was used more often in the 19th century and has lost popularity over time.


When there is a dearth of butter, what does that mean?

Dearth is a noun with Middle English roots. If there is a dearth of something, it means there is a shortage, scarcity, or lack of it. Antonyms of dearth include surplus and abundance.


If you are permitted to or able to do something, then​ you _______ do it.

Can is a word that can be used as either a noun or a verb and has a number of different meetings. After all, you can read, you can have a can of soup, and then you can put the empty can in the can. You can also ​can food to preserve it, or get canned (fired) at work.


When a situation is fraught with danger, what is that situation like?

Fraught is a word that comes from the Middle Dutch word vracht, which meant ship's cargo. If a situation is fraught with danger, it is either brimming with danger or likely to end unfavorably.


We live on Earth. To what else can the word Earth refer?

In western astrology, Earth is one of the four elements tied into the mystical system. The others are water, air and fire. Our planet is also called Earth and the soil and dirt on it can also be referred to as earth.


A landscape might look stark in winter. What does that mean?

Stark may be the surname of a Marvel character but it has Germanic roots which mean strong. In modern English, it is used to refer to things that appear to be barren, bare, severe, incredibly clear or impossible to avoid.


Cakes can be sweet or savory, but what other types of cakes are there?

You can eat a chocolate cake or a fish cake, or wash with a cake of soap. After you walk in the rain, your shoes can also be caked with mud. If someone has on too much poorly applied makeup, people might also say the person has a "cake face."


If you broach a subject, what are you doing?

The word broach has several meanings and uses but is most commonly used as a verb. It means to introduce or bring up a sensitive subject or topic. It also has nautical meanings and can refer to a ship that is veering dangerously in the water.


Which of these words refers to the part of the mind that relates to our baser urges and instincts?

The famous psychologist, Sigmund Freud, had a theory that the human personality is split into the id, ego, and superego. The id is concerned with base animal urges, the ego is concerned with our reality as we experience it and the superego is concerned with what we consider to be right and wrong.


English has many negative and positive words. Which of these words indicates negation or a negative response?

No is an interesting word in the English language. Grammatically, it can function as a determiner, exclamation, adverb and noun. It can be used to indicate opposition, disagreement, or that there is hardly any of something.


A dirge is a type of song meant for a specific occasion. Can you name the occasion?

A dirge is a funerary song or lament for the dead. While dirges often refer to songs used as funeral rites, any mournful song can be referred to as a dirge. This word has Latin roots.


What do bards do?

Bard is an archaic and literary term. It is a noun that refers to someone who writes and recites poems. This is why William Shakespeare, the most famous poet in the English language, is often referred to as the Bard (formally, the Bard of Avon).


Which of these words is a synonym for ilk?

Ilk is a noun of Germanic origin. Most commonly, it is used in phrases such as "of their ilk" or "of that ilk." It is used to mean that something is in the same category or similar to something that was already mentioned.


What is loam?

Loam is a noun. It is fertile soil made up of sand and clay that contains humus. Humus is the organic part of the soil that is made up of decomposing plant matter. Loam is also a paste used to make bricks and plaster walls.


If someone is blithe, they are displaying which emotion at an inappropriate time?

In literary contexts, blithe is often used to mean joyous or happy. However, more commonly, someone who is being blithe is being cheerfully negligent or careless about something at an inappropriate time.


You don't have to be at school to get schooled. If someone schools you, what are they doing?

A school is a place where people gather to study various subjects or skills. Someone who schools another person in a subject or skill set is training them in it. A school of creatives is also a group of people who share similar ideas or stylistic elements.


As a noun, you can live in a house. What other part of speech does the word "house" occupy?

As a noun, house can refer to the people living in a house or the dwelling where people live. When you house someone or something, you provide them with a place to live. The word house can be used as a verb, noun, and adjective.


If someone balks at your request, are they going to accommodate you?

Balk is a verb. It means to stop or block something abruptly. For example "The mom balked at her kids' requests to stay up later on a school night." This word has Old Norse roots.


Chloe has a mote of cheese. How much cheese does she have?

If you have a mote of something, you have the tiniest little piece of it. Synonyms of this word include speck, particle​ and grain. It is sometimes confused with the word moat, which refers to a ditch dug around a castle or other structure.


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