English Words in Action, Group S

(a variety of English words which have developed through history and are currently used in our modern age)

English vocabulary quizzes in random order from easy to more difficult for greater word skills.

Simply click on this banner (or the following link) and you will be on your way to stimulate your brain for greater word comprehension with quizzes based on some of the words in this unit.

spate (SPAYT) (s) (noun), spates (pl)
1. An unexpected rush or an overwhelming outpouring of something: The spate of world explorations, that started in the 1400s and the wealth of knowledge which was amassed, changed geography as a science.
2. Situations in which people encounter an unexpected and excessive supply of something: When there are too many books, robberies, celebrity break-ups, or corporate mergers; obviously all kinds of spates are going on.
3.Etymology: although it is now used to describe a large number or an unusually large amount of something, it originally described a sudden flood of water; such as, a river overflowing after a strong downpour of rain.
speed limit (s) (noun), speed limits (pl)
The fastest movement allowed for vehicles in a specified area or on certain streets or roads: Germans are all revved up over speed limits on German autobahns.

Half of the 12,000 kilometers of autobahns already have speed limits as do smaller roads; however, the "anything-goes" stretches of the autobahn are the fastest public roads in the world.

Germany has a significant economic incentive to resist a speed limit because it builds some of the world's fastest cars, and the autobahn is a valuable showcase and marketing tool for the industry.

—Compiled from excerpts in the
International Herald Tribune by Mark Landler, March 16, 2007; pages 1 & 8.
spell (verb), spells; spelled, spelt (British); spelling
1. To speak or to write the identification of the letters used correctly to create words: Clayton spelled his name for the teacher when he first went to her English class so she could add him to her attendance sheet.
2. To constitute the letters of a word: These letters spell "zebra".
spiel (s) (noun), spiels (pl)
1. A lengthy and extravagant speech or argument which is usually intended to persuade someone to do something: The salesman went into long spiels to various customers about the merits of the new design of clothing that his store was currently selling.
2. A verbal presentation that someone has often said before and which is usually done to convince people to make the best choice, agree to something, etc.: Janet listened to the politician's spiel about who would be the best mayor of her city and so she was thinking about voting for him.

Henry gave Margaret a long spiel about the benefits of going to the fitness studio for exercises to improve her physical condition.

3. Etymology: from German spielen "to play" related to Old English spilian, "to revel".
A high-flown talk that is intended to persuade someone to take action.
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splurge (verb), splurges; splurged; splurging
1. To spend money lavishly or extravagantly: Tom and his wive decided to splurge on a meal at the very expensive restaurant so they could celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary.

George and Tina splurged part of their financial savings on an expensive trip to Europe.

2. Etymology: of uncertain origin.
To indulge in extravagant spending.
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spoof (verb), spoofs; spoofed; spoofing
1. To make fun of something while overemphasizing and magnifying its distinguishing aspects for humorous and witty results: To spoof someone or something is to produce a humorous imitation; such as, a film or a particular kind of film, in which its characteristic features are exaggerated for comic effect.
2. To play a trick on or to deceive someone or other people: Mark Twain once spoofed his friends by saying: "It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech."

Jack was spoofing his fellow students about the contrary meanings of words that the teacher had assigned to them to learn; a few examples included the following:

  • A tightrope walker is a well-balanced person who always takes the straight and narrow path.
  • A toaster is a kitchen appliance that rings a bell when the toast is done or sends up smoke signals.
  • Travel is a form of education that broadens the mind, flattens the wallet, and lengthens the conversation.
  • A train is the only thing whose tracks people can see even before it has passed by.
3. Etymology: spoof originates as a trivial game of cards in which certain ones when occurring together are considered to be "spoofing". The term was invented by Arthur Roberts, 1852-1933, an English comedian.
To deceive or to fool someone.
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To satirize in a playful manner.
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spooky (adjective), spookier, spookiest
1. A reference to ghosts or supernatural beings that are sinister in a way that causes extreme fear and uneasiness: James has the feeling that the old house down the street from where he lives is a gloomy and spooky building.
2. Relating to a person or an animal being very excitable or skittish: A dog that gets scared at everything, even its own shadow, is an example of a spooky creature.

A spooky horse is easily startled and will jump and run away.
3. Etymology: from Dutch spook, "ghost, specter."

A reference to being unnatural and eerie.
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spree (s) (noun), sprees (pl)
1. A period of being excessively involved in some activity: Mark's wife went on a shopping spree when the clothing store had some bargain prices.

The two criminals went on a robbing spree of two banks before they were apprehended by the police.

If anyone spends a certain amount of time doing something in an unrestrained way, then it is proper to say that he or she is on a spree.
2. Etymology: of unknown origin.

An overindulgence in some activity.
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spunk (s) (noun) (no plural)
1. Spirit, courage, and determination: Tom's little daughter has a lot of spunk when it comes to her learning to play the piano.
2. Etymology: from Gaelic spong, "tinder, pith, sponge"; borrowed from Latin spongia, "sponge."

Before it meant spunk or "courage", it had the meaning of "tender" or "wood" used in lighting a fire."

It comes from Irish sponnc, "tinder."

Courage and spirit to do something.
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spurious (adjective), more spurious, most spurious
1. Not genuine, insincere, not authentic, counterfeit: Edward gave his wife a necklace of spurious pearls which were fakes.
2. Based on false ideas or bad reasoning: Shelby made a spurious claim to her health insurance for medication that she never used or needed.
3. In botany, that which is similar in appearance but different in structure or function: There are some spurious parts of plants that superficially resemble those of other plants, but they are not the same.
4. Etymology: from Latin spurius, "false, illegitimate".

The sense of having an illegitimate or being of an invald origin, not properly qualified or constituted, is recorded first in Ben Jonson's 1601 The Poetaster and the extended sense of "false, sham, counterfeit" appeared in 1615.

False coat.
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Fake money.
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Counterfeit and not genuine.
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spuriously (adverb), more spuriously, most spuriously
Descriptive of that which is apparently but not actually valid: The politician spuriously presented an argument that was irrational and unrealistic.

The customer spuriously tried to use counterfeit money to pay for his purchases.

spurn (verb), spurns; spurned; spurning
To refuse to accept or to reject and to turn down an offer with contempt: Mrs. Jones spurned the telephone caller who wanted to offer her an investment which he claimed would make her wealthy.
To reject or to refuse to accept doing something.
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spurner (s) (noun), spurners (pl)
Someone who refuses to accept an offer of friendship or who does not want to participate in some activity: Norbert was a spurner who turned down an offer of another job because he was happy with the one that he had and the new one didn't include higher pay or any other financial improvements.
squabble (verb), squabbles; squabbled; squabbling
1. To loudly argue about something that is neither important nor significant: Jim and his brother, Arthur, were squabbling over who would pay for the lunch that day.
2. Etymology: from a Scandinavian source, related to Swedish dialectal skvabbel, "to dispute, to quarrel."
To noisily complain or quarrel about some insignificant issue.
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To fight noisily over small matter.
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squat (s) (noun), squats (pl)
A place of unauthorized residence or a place occupied by those who are not there legally: The Roma, or Gypsies, were removed from a squat just south of Paris and then they were expelled by the police from a nearby church where they had taken refuge.

Links to all of the groups of English words in action, Groups A to Z.

You may see the bibliographic list of sources of information for these words in action.