Quiz on words and phrases with military origins

Joy Bhattacharjya | Updated on September 11, 2020 Published on September 11, 2020

In the long run: Marathons take their inspiration from the story of Greek soldier Pheidippides   -  REUTERS/ LISI NIESNER

On September 12, 490 BC, the battle of Marathon was fought between the invading Persian army and the citizens of Athens. The Greek army won, and one of their soldiers, Pheidippides, ran to Athens to deliver the news of the victory. He died immediately after completing his mission. His historic run is the inspiration behind modern marathons.

This quiz is on words and phrases that have military origins.

Have a word

1 James Brudenell, a hero of the Crimean War, favoured wearing a knitted woollen waistcoat with an open front. His title as a British nobleman gave us the word used to describe this type of garment. Name the knitted garment.

2 The Amuco were 19th-century Malay warriors who believed that survivors of a lost battle should be punished with death and so always fought maniacally to the bitter end. Which two-word term was derived from this practice?

3 After the French burnt down Brighton, England, in the 16th century, King Henry VIII sent a force under a British admiral to France to retaliate. The admiral is said to have burnt down over a score of towns and villages along the coast. What word for a ‘good beating’ originates from the surname of the admiral?

4 In the military tradition, disgraced officers were thrown out of their unit in the following manner: As the regiment’s drummer played on, the officer would have his sword broken, his buttons removed, and his charges read to the entire room. The officer was then marched in a parade with the band playing all the time. Which term originated from this custom?

5 Like ‘A’ for Alpha, ‘B’ for Bravo ,‘C’ for Charlie, ‘R’ is now phonetically referred to as ‘Romeo’. What was the original word, which is still used in a very common two-word military expression?

6 Which item of clothing gets its name from an incident in the Marshall Islands in 1946?

7 The French term for a small party of troops that led the way for others is now commonly used in the fields of art and culture. What is the term?

8 Which word commonly used in the world of films comes from the British bomb weighing 4,000-pounds that could devastate a large area?

9 In the 18th- and 19th-century British Navy, the ship’s cook would sell the salty fat that he “skimmed off the top” from a boiling pot of meat to soap makers when in port. The money collected would be used for amenities for the crew. Which two-word term originates from this, based on the name for the salty fat?

10 In medieval France, the people who stripped and rifled through dead bodies on a battlefield and carried off the spoils were known by a particular term. It now stands for disreputable and worthless. Which term?


1 Cardigan; he was the Earl of Cardigan.

2 Running amok, from Amuco.

3 Wallop; he was Admiral Wallop.

4 Facing the music.

5 Roger, which is where the phrase ‘Roger that’ originated.

6 Bikini; it commemorates the nuclear tests at Bikini atoll.

7 Avant-garde, which literally means ‘forefront’.

8 Blockbuster, because it could devastate an entire block.

9 Slush fund; the fat was called ‘slush’.

10 Riff-raff, from ‘rifle et rafle’.


Joy Bhattacharjya is a quizmaster;

Twitter: @joybhattacharj

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Published on September 11, 2020
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