Vocabulary Quiz: Defining Words in Context

Practice in Using Context Clues

The largest plant maze in the world, at Reignac sur Indre, Indre et Loire Department, France
Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Getty Images

This vocabulary quiz will help you build your vocabulary by using context clues to determine the meanings of unfamiliar words.

Instructions

For each of the passages below, select the letter of the one item that most accurately defines the word in bold. When you're done, compare your responses with the answers.

  1. "Dad's shop was a messy disaster area, a labyrinth of lathes. Its walls were hung with the mounted antlers of deers he'd bagged, forming a makeshift museum of death. The available flat surfaces were buried under a million scraps of paper on which he sketched his mechanical inventions in blue ball-point pen."
    (Sarah Vowell, "Shooting Dad")
    (a) a place where goods are manufactured or repaired
    (b) a dirty or extremely untidy place
    (c) a maze, a place where it's hard to find your way around
    (d) a deserted or abandoned place
  1. "For the most part we are an intemperate people: we eat too much when we can, drink too much, indulge our senses too much. Even in our so-called virtues we are intemperate: a teetotaler is not content not to drink--he must stop all the drinking in the world; a vegetarian among us would outlaw the eating of meat."
    (John Steinbeck, "Paradox and Dream")
    (a) bossy, domineering
    (b) lazy, indolent
    (c) very annoying, making others impatient or angry
    (d) immoderate, showing a lack of self-control
  2. "Like a feather caught in a vortex, Williams ran around the square of bases at the center of our beseeching screaming. He ran as he always ran out home runs--hurriedly, unsmiling, head down, as if our praise were a storm of rain to get out of."
    (John Updike, "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu")
    (a) a mass of whirling air, a whirlwind or cyclone
    (b) a leafy branch of a tree
    (c) a clogged drainage pipe, a stopped-up sewer
    (d) a nest
  1. "My father, a fat, funny man with beautiful eyes and a subversive wit, is trying to decide which of his eight children he will take with him to the county fair."
    (Alice Walker, "Beauty: When the Other Dancer Is the Self")
    (a) extremely amusing, hilarious
    (b) tending to upset or overthrow the established order
    (c) highly predictable, happening in a way you would expect
    (d) impossible to understand, impenetrable
  1. "Roger was thankful for the clothes he had chosen to wear today, because if there was ever a time he needed sartorial armor, it was right now."
    (Tom Wolfe, A Man in Full)
    (a) related to clothing or style of dress
    (b) extremely heavy
    (c) made of metal or leather
    (d) related to a battle or a competition
  2. "In resenting progress and change, a man lays himself open to censure."
    (E.B. White, "Progress and Change")
    (a) mockery, ridicule
    (b) an official count of a population
    (c) the suppression of objectionable material
    (d) criticism, expression of disapproval
  3. "It was a house of many windows, low, wide, nearly floor to ceiling in the living room, which faced the meadow, and it was from one of these that I first saw our closest neighbor, a large white horse, cropping grass, flipping its mane, and ambling about--not over the entire meadow, which stretched well out of sight of the house, but over the five or so fenced-in acres that were next to the twenty-odd that we had rented."
    (Alice Walker, "Am I Blue?")
    (a) moving quickly, racing
    (b) moving slowly, sauntering
    (c) moving unsteadily, stumbling
    (d) moving with a clearly defined purpose, charging
  4. "To see a great film only on television isn't to have really seen that film. It's not only a question of the dimensions of the image: the disparity between a larger-than-you image in the theater and the little image on the box at home. The conditions of paying attention in a domestic space are radically disrespectful of film."
    (Susan Sontag, "The Decay of Cinema")
    (a) remarkable similarity
    (b) clear superiority
    (c) great difference
    (d) unusual largeness
  1. "At work he was known to punctuate his conversations with brief wild laughs and gusts of inchoate enthusiasm and subsequent embarrassment, expressed by a sudden plunging of the hands into his pockets, after which he would yank his hands out of his pockets, too ashamed of his own shame to stand there merely grimacing for even an instant longer."
    (George Saunders, "The Falls")
    (a) unfinished, not fully formed
    (b) difficult or impossible to explain
    (c) undisciplined, out of control
    (d) perfected, complete
  2. "He wears eyeglasses with thick lenses and thick black frames, and he has gray hair, a round, jowly face, and the torso of a born Santa Claus."
    (Mark Singer, "Mr. Personality")
    (a) big fluffy beard
    (b) hearty laugh
    (c) large black belt
    (d) the central or upper part of the body

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Vocabulary Quiz Answers

  1. (c) a maze, a place where it's hard to find your way around
  2. (d) immoderate, showing a lack of self-control
  3. (a) a mass of whirling air, a whirlwind or cyclone
  4. (b) tending to upset or overthrow the established order
  5. (a) related to clothing or style of dress
  6. (d) criticism, expression of disapproval
  7. (b) moving slowly, sauntering
  8. (c) great difference
  9. (a) unfinished, not fully formed
  10. (d) the central or upper part of the body