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Word Power: Test Your Knowledge of These English Words of Arabic Origin

Centuries of trade between Middle Eastern and European merchants brought more than silks and spices to the West. Find out how many of these words are in your vocabulary.

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Lapis Lazuli

A: Breed of soft-haired rabbit
B: Gem-carving technique
C: Bright blue mineral

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Answer: C—Bright blue mineral

As in, “Yvonne’s necklace caught the eye with its lapis lazuli stones.”

Test your knowledge of these evocative adjectives!

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Bezoar

A: Wild boar
B: Hard mass in a stomach
C: Navigational star chart

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Answer: B—Hard mass in a stomach

As in, “The veterinarian found the bezoar that had been causing José’s dog such pain.”

Find out why some English words have silent letters.

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Adobe

A: Flour-based glue
B: Sun-dried bricks
C: Political advisor

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Answer: B—Sun-dried bricks

As in, “Some of the streets in Timimoun, Algeria, are lined with adobe houses.”

These words from the first dictionary no longer exist.

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Mecca

A: Place that attracts people
B: Clay cooking pot
C: Magnetic north

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Correct answer: A—Place that attracts people

As in, “Some Muslims take an annual trip to Mecca, the city where Muhammad was born, and some culture lovers take an annual trip to New York City, a mecca for the arts.”

Take to the skies without leaving your chair by exploring these aviation terms.

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Carmine

A: Woven satchel
B: Vivid red
C: Youthful prince

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Answer: B—Vivid red

As in, “In spring, Jasmine’s garden is full of carmine tulips.”

You’ll love these amazing facts about the English language!

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Albatross

A: Oceanic bird of the family Diomedeidae
B: Saltwater fish species
C: Song lamenting the fall of a city

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Answer: A—Oceanic bird of the family Diomedeidae

As in, “‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ tells of a curse brought about when a sailor kills an albatross.”

Can you guess which famous authors coined these common words?

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Loofah

A: Incense holder
B: Dried fruit used as a bath sponge
C: Cinnamon toothpaste

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Answer: B—Dried fruit used as a bath sponge

As in, “Harry’s bathroom was stocked with fresh towels, a silk dressing gown and a loofah.”

You’ll never look at these palindrome words the same way again.

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Alcove

A: Footstool
B: Fragrant spice
C: Recessed area

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Answer: C—Recessed area

As in, “A marble bust of Beethoven sat in an alcove in the living room.”

Check out the English words that have different meanings in other languages.

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Azimuth

A: Military officer who leads a death squad
B: Political deadlock
C: Direction of a celestial body from the observer

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Answer: C—Direction of a celestial body from the observer

As in, “To receive the most sunlight, a solar panel should take the sun’s azimuth into account.”

Can you pass this quiz of fourth grade spelling words?

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Cipher

A: Coded messaging
B: Gambling strategy
C: Freshwater dolphin

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Answer: A—Coded messaging

As in, “Many ciphers were created for the U.S. military during the Second World War, but the Navajo language proved one of the best methods of secret communication.”

You probably didn’t know you’re using these military terms every day.

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Julep

A: Citrus drink
B: Syrupy drink
C: Yogourt drink

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Answer: B—Syrupy drink

As in, “The mint julep is the signature cocktail of the Kentucky Derby.”

Consider avoiding these words that make you sound old.

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Calipers

A: Instrument with two legs that measures dimensions
B: Hereditary religious leaders in Syria
C: Proportion of precious meals in an alloy

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Answer: A—Instrument with two legs that measures dimensions

As in, “While renovating the kitchen, Jillian used calipers to determine the size of her tiles.”

Admit it: you’re probably guilty of uttering these redundant phrases.

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Alkaline

A: Dark eyeliner made from wax
B: Substance containing a low concentration of hydrogen ions
C: Pointed nose

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Answer: B—Substance containing a low concentration of hydrogen ions

As in, “A solution with a pH higher than seven is said to be alkaline, or basic.”

Here are the hardest English words to pronounce.

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Arsenal

A: Person who sets fires
B: Deadly poison
C: Store of weapons

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Answer: C—Store of weapons

As in, “Nine countries in the world possess known nuclear arsenals.”

How well do you know your insect terms? Put your vocabulary to the test.

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Damask

A: Twilight hour
B: Woven fabric with a reversible pattern
C: Persian Gulf sailing vessel

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Answer: B—Woven fabric with a reversible pattern

As in, “For the French doors, the decorator chose damask curtains that would photograph well from either side.”

Next, test your knowledge of these royal terms.