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Word Origins

Test your knowledge of word origins

  1. Which fruit gets its name from an Aztec word meaning testicle?
  2. What word comes originally from a Roman soldier's monthly payment in salt?
  3. The word Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word 'yuj' which means to do what?
  4. Which word meaning an intellectual person with perhaps a lack of social skills comes originally from the name of a creature in Dr. Seuss's 1950 book If I Ran the Zoo?
  5. Which car company's name comes from the Latin for 'I roll'?
  6. What word is a combination of two Japanese characters which means "empty hand"?
  7. Which word meaning a popular expert or influential teacher, comes from the Sanskrit term for a "guide, mentor, or expert"?
  8. Which 5-letter word starting with the letter 'g' which means doing something enthusiastically, comes from the Italian word for taste?
  9. Which musical instrument gets its name from the Hawaiian words for jumping flea?
  10. Some dictionaries suggest that which animal gets its name from the Welsh words for head and white?
  11. Which Asian country's name means 'land of the pure' in its official language?
  12. Which word meaning 'an imaginary society that possesses near perfect qualities of life' was first coined in a 1516 book?
  13. Which product gets its name from the Hindi word meaning 'to massage'?
  14. The words admiral, algebra, and apricot come from which language?
  15. Which chemical element's name means "heavy stone" in Swedish?
  16. Which well known word originates from a Gaelic phrase meaning "water of life"?
  17. Which Latin word, meaning "of the left", has come to mean threatening or evil in English?
  18. Sometimes called Chinese geomancy, what term literally means "wind-water"?
  19. Which English word meaning a strong desire to travel comes from the German words meaning 'desire' and 'to hike'?
  20. Which French term first used in the Victorian era, refered to lesser objects of art which formed curious collections?


  1. Avocado
  2. Salary
  3. To join, or to unite
  4. Nerd
  5. Volvo
  6. karate
  7. Guru
  8. Gusto
  9. Ukulele (from 'uku' meaning 'flea', and 'lele' meaning 'jumping')
  10. Penguin (from the Welsh pen meaning "head" and gwyn meaning "white")
  11. Pakistan (means 'land of the pure' in Urdu)
  12. Utopia (first coined by Sir Thomas More for his 1516 book Utopia)
  13. Shampoo
  14. Arabic
  15. Tungsten
  16. Whiskey
  17. Sinister
  18. Feng shui
  19. Wanderlust (from the German words wandern ('to hike') and lust ('desire'))
  20. Bric-a-brac