SAT Vocab Monday: Mystery Words

Hello, and welcome to SAT Monday!

Watch the video above for the scoop on mystery-related SAT vocabulary, and then check out the word list below for more review:


I can name every member of the Brady Bunch family.

Not that esoteric.

I know the name of and have watched every single Disney movie ever released.

Pretty esoteric.

I know the inner workings of a rocket and the smell of rocket fuel on a hot August night.

Definitely esoteric.

I collect pre-World War II stamps from tiny Eastern European countries.

Get a life.



I belong to a society of mathematicians and we know all the secrets of the ancient cult of Pythagoras.

Arcane = secret, hard to obtain knowledge



The topic of quantum physics, in which matter is both present and not present at the same time, is abstruse.

Abstruse = difficult to understand



It’s hard to get any tutoring help in ancient Greek, when your task is to translate the works of Homer.

Recondite = difficult to understand, obscure



He’s got a poker-face; I can’t read him. He’s inscrutable.

(in – not, scrutari – to search)

I have no idea what he is saying. His words are inscrutable.

Inscrutable = impossible to understand or interpret



He gave me an enigmatic smile—what exactly did he mean?

The disappearance of ships in the Bermuda Triangle is enigmatic. How exactly did they go missing.

Enigmatic = mysterious



“What’s a conundrum?”

“Why is it whenever I switch lanes I always end up in the one that gets backed up?”

“Why did the ancient Mayans disappear?

“How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll pop?”

Conundrum = Riddle

Bad joke: What do you call a percussive instrument that nobody knows how to use?



Let’s say I bought a surprise, but I don’t want you to find out what is. Of course, you’ll ask questions: “Is it a new iPad?”, “Is it a new iPhone?”

If I want to play with you a little, I want just give you a yes or no, but I will say something puzzling—yet tantalizing. That’s what it means to be cryptic.

“It’s bigger than your palm, but, like most things, it’s smaller than your head.”


“You’ve always wanted it, and you mentioned it to me that one time.”

Another context: you are playing cards with me and you ask what hand I have. “You’ll find out soon enough, won’t you”, is a cryptic response.



  • Chris Lele

    Chris Lele is the Principal Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh. Chris graduated from UCLA with a BA in Psychology and has 20 years of experience in the test prep industry. He's been quoted as a subject expert in many publications, including US News, GMAC, and Business Because. In his time at Magoosh, Chris has taught countless students how to tackle the GRE, GMAT, SAT, ACT, MCAT (CARS), and LSAT exams with confidence. Some of his students have even gone on to get near-perfect scores. You can find Chris on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook!

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

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