13 Fun Vocabulary Games for Kids and Adults in 2021

Home » Resources » Vocabulary GamesUpdated: May 16, 2021

You found our list of the best vocabulary games.

Vocabulary games are activities that include language and wordplay. For example, Word Association and Hang Man. Players can enjoy vocabulary games in person or online. The purpose of these games is to strengthen vocabulary skills. These games are also known as “word games.”

These games make great online classroom activities and can be used for team building with remote teams.

This list includes:

  • simple word games for adults
  • classroom vocabulary games
  • ESL vocabulary games
  • digital vocabulary games
  • games for English class
  • words to use for language games

Get ready to play!

List of vocabulary games

From Pictionary to word scrambles to synonym memory, here is a list of fun word games to play in classrooms, at parties, or during meetings.

1. Pictionary

Pictionary is a game of charades where players draw words instead of acting them out.

To play:

  1. Split the group into teams.
  2. Each round, assign one team member to draw.
  3. Give the drawing team member a word.
  4. Allow up to sixty seconds for teammates to guess.
  5. If the team guesses correctly, then assign one point.

You can give other teams the opportunity to steal, or move onto the next team’s turn. The game is a great way to practice new vocabulary, as players connect the word with an image. Pictionary is a fun game for virtual parties or in-person affairs.

To play Pictionary online, draw on the whiteboard app feature on your online meeting software.

2. Word Association

Word Association is one of the best ESL vocabulary games since playing does not require a large vocabulary. The rules are simple and easy to understand. Typically, the game involves two players.

To play:

  1. Player one says a word.
  2. Player two responds with the first word that comes to mind.
  3. Player one either chooses a new word or responds to player two’s word.
  4. The game continues until one player repeats a word or pauses too long.

The rapid pace of the game generates excitement and occasionally results in funny answers.

If a student makes a mistake, then the teacher can pause the game and ask the student to explain or find a more fitting word. Ideally, gamemasters should allow players a few extra seconds to respond. Players should never feel embarrassed. There are no wrong answers in word association, but the game can serve as a learning opportunity to find better words.

If playing via Zoom, then player one or the teacher speaks a word, and other students answer in the chat. The class counts up matching answers and discusses different responses, guessing the reasoning behind each answer.

3. Hangman

Hangman is a classic chalkboard word game that translates easily to online play, thanks to digital whiteboards.

To play:

  1. Assign a player a word.
  2. The player draws a series of blanks corresponding to the number of letters in the word.
  3. Other players guess letters.
  4. If the letter is in the word, then the “executioner” fills in the blank. If not, then the executioner draws one portion of the gallows.
  5. The game ends when players guess the word, or when the picture is complete.

The best words to use for hangman contain less-used letters like z, x, and q. Examples of hard hangman words include zigzagging, razzmatazz, and quadrants.

4. Word search

Word searches are common classroom vocabulary games. These activities work well for handouts, and you can play during video calls by using the whiteboard feature and enabling annotation.

We made a sample word search you can use.

Vocabulary word search

To make the game more competitive and exciting, turn the challenge into a race and award prizes to the first players to complete the puzzles.

5. Crossword

Crossword puzzles consist of a series of interconnecting boxes, each of which starts blank but contains one letter by the end of the game. Under the puzzle are two lists of clues, across and down respectively. Solvers need to consider the meaning of words, number of letters, and surrounding words, making the game strategic as well as literary.

Here is an example of a crossword puzzle you can use with your class or team.

Word search template

Here is the answer key.

Word search answer key

Crosswords are great word games for any age or skill level because puzzle makers can adjust the difficulty to suit players. To make your own crossword puzzle, use an online crossword creator.

6. Word Scramble

Word scrambles make great games for English class, and adults enjoy these language brain teasers as well. Simply mix up the order of the letters and ask players to unscramble and identify the original words.

Here is a sample to start with.

Word scramble template

And here is the answer key.

Word scramble answer key

To make your own word scrambles, use an online letter randomizer.

7. Scrabble

Scrabble is one of the most popular word games for adults or children. Players must use letter tiles to assemble words on the game board.

To play:

  1. Each player draws seven letter tiles.
  2. During turns, players can play tiles or exchange them for new letters.
  3. Players build words on the board, with each new word connecting to an existing word.
  4. Tiles have a point value assigned depending on the challenge of the letter. When a player makes a word, tally the letter and add the score to the point board.

More challenging letters have higher point values. For example, E is one point, while Z is ten. To find the point values for each tile and read more gameplay tips, check out this guide from Hasbro.

To coordinate the game for language lessons, assign higher scores for vocabulary words, and ask players to use the words in a sentence for extra points.

Scrabble is easy to play online, too, making it one of the best digital vocabulary games. To play virtually, simply find a multiplayer online version of the game, such as Words With Friends.

8. Scattergories

Scattergories is one of the most fun and simple word games for adults. The game challenges players to think up words all starting with the same letter.

To play:

  1. One player rolls a letter die or uses a letter generator to pick the first letter.
  2. The timekeeper puts 60 seconds on the clock.
  3. Players write down one answer per category starting with the letter.
  4. When time runs out, players read the answers.
  5. Players receive a point for every answer.

Alliterative phrases count for double or triple points. If two players have the same answer, then they must cross it out and neither receives points. Of course, a player will not receive points for blank answers either. At the end of each round, the player with the most points wins.

Here is a list of sample Scattergories categories:

  • A boy’s name, girl’s name, or gender neutral name
  • Capital cities
  • Four letter words
  • Types of drinks
  • Holidays
  • Careers or professions
  • Cartoon characters
  • Websites
  • Desserts

You could create more inventive categories for the game, or challenge players to make up prompts.

To play virtually, use the chat, screen-share, whiteboard functions in your virtual meeting platform. You can also share a Google Doc or Form, or join a multiplayer online Scattergories game together.

9. Tree or Bob Ross

Tree or Bob Ross is a fun video conference game that challenges players to guess a word by asking questions.

The player who conjures the word is The Post. The Post answers This or That questions whose answers help players narrow down the word.

The first question of the game is usually “is it more like a tree, or more like Bob Ross?” and The Post must answer accordingly. For instance, a rose is probably more like a tree, but Pinnochio presents an interesting challenge.

Each turn, the guesser adds a new word. For example, the second question might be, “is it more like a tree or a fern?” The game continues until players guess correctly. For more excitement, introduce a time limit, or award more points if players guess the word during earlier rounds.

10. Pyramid

Pyramid challenges players to guess words from context clues. The pyramid is a collection of six words, arranged with three on the bottom, two in the middle, and one at the top. To win, teams must guess all words within the pyramid in the allotted time.

To play:

  1. Divide the group into teams.
  2. Give one player on each team the pyramid.
  3. The pyramid holder must give hints to teammates describing each word without using the actual name of the item.
  4. When players guess correctly, the pyramid master can move to the next word. Or, players can say “pass,” and return to the word later.
  5. Teams receive a point for every correct guess.

When determining the time limit, consider the age of your players and the difficulty of the words. In general, 30 seconds per word, or three minutes total, is a good place to start, but add or take away time to increase or decrease the challenge.

11. Invisible Bridge

Invisible Bridge is similar to six degrees of Kevin Bacon. In both games, you must figure out a way to connect two seemingly distant concepts. Six degrees of Kevin Bacon uses actors, while Invisible Bridge uses words.

To play:

  1. A player suggests two unrelated words.
  2. Player one gives a number of planks. This is how many steps other players must use to relate the two words.
  3. The other players think up words that share similar traits, synonyms, or connector words to move from one term to another.

An example round might look as follows:

Tiger, Astronaut, eight planks

Tiger – Balm – Lip – Service – Customer – Happy – Pills – Capsules – Space – Astronaut

Meanwhile, Tiger, Astronaut, two planks might look like this:

Tiger – meat eater – meteor – Astronaut

One fun aspect about this game is there can be more than one correct answer, and opposing teams can dispute far-reaches. Invisible bridge encourages players to think about the nature of language and the relationship between words.

12. Poetry Improv

Poetry Improv is an exercise that challenges participants to craft verses on the spot.

To play:

  1. Pick a poetry style, such as sonnet, haiku, acrostic, limerick, or free verse.
  2. Give participants vocabulary words to use within the poem.
  3. Allow five or ten minutes for groups or individuals to complete the verses. If playing online via meeting software, then send groups to breakout rooms to work.
  4. Ask poets to share the masterpieces aloud.

For extra fun, turn other players into judges by asking them to rate the poems by holding up scorecards. To make the game more fast-paced, ask players to finish each others’ phrases on the spot for a true poetic improv.

13. Synonym Memory

The rules of Memory are easy: flip over two cards at a time and look for matching pictures or words. When players find pairs, they take the cards off the board. The player with the most pairs of cards at the end of the game wins.

Synonym Memory puts a challenging spin on the simple game. Instead of hunting for exact matches, players pair up words with synonyms.

Here are some sample matches:

  • enticing/tempting
  • assume/suppose
  • patience/restraint
  • revoke/rescind
  • impact/collision

The game encourages players to think in different ways, as participants will need to remember the location of the cards as well as consider meanings of words.

To play online, make your own virtual synonym memory game with an online tool and share screens to play, with one player flipping over the cards at other players’ request.

List of words to use for vocabulary games

Here is a list of great words to use in word games:

  • serendipity
  • fortitude
  • akimbo
  • sumptuous
  • ineffable
  • zephyr
  • incorrigible
  • medallion
  • mauve
  • bombast
  • denouement
  • contemporary
  • gossamer
  • inane
  • hippodrome
  • concession
  • ideology
  • quintessential
  • prescient
  • regurgitate
  • gnash
  • cataclysmic
  • knell

For further inspiration, use a random word generator or consult online lists of difficult or intersecting words.

Conclusion

Vocabulary games test and strengthen players’ communication skills. These games minimize frustration by disguising language lessons in the form of an exciting challenge. Not to mention, word games are fun for adults and kids alike, and make great icebreaker activities during meetings. Most games only require words and a way to share them, so playing word games online via Zoom or similar platforms is easy.

For even more smart fun, check out our posts on problem solving games, question games and team building brain teasers.

FAQ: Vocabulary Games

Here are answers to common questions about vocabulary games.

What are vocabulary games?

Vocabulary games are word and language games you can play with students, coworkers, or family and friends. These games challenge players to hunt for words or definitions, brainstorm terms, deduce phrases based on clues, or create words under certain conditions. Language games are a great way to teach new vocabulary and help students practice recognizing and using new words.

What are some fun word games?

Some fun word games include Pictionary, Tree or Bob Ross, and word scrambles.

What are some online vocabulary games?

By using virtual meeting software, you can play any word game online. Some good virtual vocabulary games include Scrabble, Scattergories, and online crossword puzzles.

What are good ESL word games?

The best ESL word games are easy to understand and play yet expand the vocabularies of participants. Good ESL word games include word association, word searches, and hangman.

What are fun ways to teach vocabulary?

Word games are one of the most fun ways to teach vocabulary. While some kids get frustrated with straightforward reading or language exercises, word games disguise vocabulary lessons as a fun challenge. Plus, playing language games together is a great teamwork exercise.

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Author: Angela Robinson

Team building content expert. Angela has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.

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