Test your etymology skills (skill: from the Old Norse “skil”)


I found an etymology quiz online yesterday. They give you 10 random questions on word origins with multiple-choice answers. It’s freaking hard. Give it a try and let us know how you did in the comments.

  • My first try: 6 out of 10
  • Second try: 6 out of 10
  • Third try: OK, I should get back to work.

Funniest false answer:

  • Where do we get the word testimony?
  • From testicle; the ancient Greeks would swear not on a Bible, but holding their crotch and swearing on their testicles.

Funny, but true:

  • From where did we borrow the word pencil?
  • The Latin diminutive of penis, forĀ  “tail, brush.”

Yes I am aware the two that I found funny are on a middle-school level of humor. I’m OK with that.

Most interesting true answer:

  • What is the proper definition for the word soteriology?
  • Study of the salvation of the eternal soul.

Also interesting:

  • What did palooka originally mean?
  • An inferior or average boxer.

10 thoughts on “Test your etymology skills (skill: from the Old Norse “skil”)

  1. Daniel Goudie

    Awesome quiz: I’ve been looking a long time for something like that. So much fun.

    My first time I got 9/10 (origin of ‘zealot’ torpedoed my attempt to get 100%), but lucked out on the second time with 6/10. Will try again.

  2. TCM

    9/10 on the first go. I’ve been a sometime etymology fan for decades, so the classical stuff was easy, but I could only guess at regional dialects.

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