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. Fran says:

    7 out of 10. You’re right, it’s addictive.

  2. Nathan says:

    5 of 10
    then 2 of 10 (D’oh)
    then 8 of 10 (worship me.)

  3. Brian White says:

    From my Aunt Sara posting on my Facebook page:
    “4/10, 3/10, 7/10 and I quit while I was ahead. “

  4. Clare Bohn says:

    I got 8, then 7, then 6, and stopped feeling smug.

  5. Daniel Goudie says:

    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.

  6. JD says:

    “What did palooka originally mean?”

    I couldn’t tell you what palooka means now!

  7. Charlotte S says:

    5/10 and then 8/10 – ok so I cheated 0n the second one and it should have been 7/10.

    So I’m not a complete dullard, just a cheating dullard!

  8. phillygrrl says:

    2/10 *Sobs

  9. TCM says:

    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.

  10. 3 out of 10. Ugh.

    Coincidentally, one of the words that came up during my first round was “purdah.”

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