10 MOST Confusing English Words Students Look Up In a Dictionary

3 years ago



For sure, English isn’t the easiest language in the world. Even native speakers at times get confused by some words. Obviously, when you’re not sure about the meaning of a word, you look it up in the dictionary. The Typical Student team listed 10 most looked-up words based Merriam-Webster dictionary.

#1 Pretentious


Source: Thesaurus.plus

Expressive of affected, unwarranted, or exaggerated importance, worth, or stature.


"What on first encounter might seem pretentious turns out to be simple and beautiful."

—Times, Sunday Times (2016)

#2 Ubiquitous


Source: Thesaurus.plus

Widespread, something you encounter on a daily basis.


"Shawarma is the new street meat. Both a late night favourite and a quick lunch classic, the Middle Eastern dish is now ubiquitous on the streets of Toronto."

— Chris Dart, Torontoist, 8 Feb. 2007

#3 Cynical


Source: Thesaurus.plus

Often used to describe someone’s nature. The one believing that human conduct is motivated primarily by self-interest.


"The rap on ... [the] musical Chicago has been that it was a show ahead of its time, with its cynical take on the idea of celebrity, crime, and the regular folks who would do nearly anything for a moment in the spotlight."

— Thom Geier, EntertainmentWeekly.com, August 24, 2010

#4 Apathetic


Source: Thesaurus.plus

The one having little or no interest or concern. A synonym for apathetic is "indifferent."


"Strategists are considering pushing for similar [marijuana legalization] initiatives in 2012 for battleground states ... in an effort to motivate a typically apathetic but largely liberal population of marijuana supporters."

— Dave Thier, AOLNews, October 6, 2010

#5 Conundrum


Source: Thesaurus.plus

Basically, a riddle or mystery. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as a seemingly unanswerable question involving ethics, sociology, and economics.


"The basic conundrum is that harassment via Facebook, text messaging, and e-mail usually involves off-campus student speech, which is more protected by the First Amendment than what happens on school grounds."

— Emily Bazelon, Slate.com, February 8, 2010

#6 Albeit


Source: Thesaurus.plus

Albeit is the equivalent of  "even though" or "although."


"Poppy seeds contain minute traces of opiates. Both opium and codeine occur in poppy seeds, albeit in tiny quantities. You cannot get high on poppy seeds."

— Chris Kilham, FoxNews.com, October 19, 2010

#7 Ambiguous


Source: Thesaurus.plus

If you describe something as ambiguous, you mean that it is unclear or confusing because it can be understood in more than one way.


"Greater familiarity with this artist makes one's assessment of him more tentative rather than less. His best pictures exude a hypersensitive, ambiguous aura of grace."

— Peter Schjeldahl, New Yorker, 10 Mar. 2003

#8 Integrity


Source: Thesaurus.plus

Integrity is the firm adherence to one’s moral principles and values.


"Many were tempted by a piece of the equity action and compromised their integrity."

— Bruce Nussbaum, Business Week, 28 Jan. 2002

#9 Affect/Effect


Source: Thesaurus.plus

Surprisingly, many people have a hard time remembering when to use each word. "Affect" is usually a verb and "effect" is usually a noun.


Source: Thesaurus.plus


  1. Arthritis is a crippling disease which affects people all over the world.
  2. Parents worry about the effect of music on their adolescent's behavior.

#10 Love

love-meaning-merriam-websterSource: Thesaurus.plus

Turns out, people look up the Merriam-Webster dictionary to find out what love is. The dictionary defines love as "strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties" or "attraction based on sexual desire."


"Scholars, poets, and just plain folks have pondered the meaning and mystery of love for thousands of years, but every definition seems lacking."

— Lee Dye, ABC News, October 27, 2010


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