Tips for Learning New Vocabulary Words

5 Word Games That Will Help You Learn New Words


One great way to learn new words without feeling overwhelmed is to challenge yourself with word games. From the timeless favorite Scrabble to the always cool anagram, there are all kinds of games that we take on: for fun, for learning. To test your current vocabulary IQ, here are five word games you might consider.

1. Jumble. A favorite word game that relies on the rearrangement of "jumbled" letters into a word. Each puzzle has a theme to provide a bit of guidance. For instance "mecerebd" for a Christmas-themed jumble would be "December." The Jumble puzzles found in your daily newspaper are accompanied by a humorous cartoon and a pun. In order to get the pun however, you need to solve the final jumble. It's a fun, rewarding game that does demand a lot of your brain. To recognize the right word among the scramble of letters can be quite difficult.

2. Crosswords. You can't go wrong with crossword puzzles. Keep a dictionary nearby and use it when you need to verify spelling or definition. The fact that you know where to look among the lexicon's multitude of words means that you're on the right track. Crosswords are good challenges because they come with built-in context, from the clues to the theme of the puzzle (e.g. a crossword about adjectives). Crosswords are fun pastimes, available in different skill levels, which can be taken anywhere. Play online or in print and challenge yourself to get to that next level. For many, completing The New York Times crosswords in pen is a triumph.

3. Scrabble. Online versions of this classic board game make it easy to play anywhere, anytime. The rules remain the same, with each player getting seven letter tiles from which they are to form new words. Points rewarded are based on the value of the individual tile; while the game's value to the player is the challenge inherent in forming high-value words and searching one's vocabulary to find word gems. It's an addictive game that can be frustrating, only because we all want to impress our opponents with we know.

4. Word Searches. In a word search, you're presented with a block of scrambled letters. Within these letters, words are hidden and the object of the game is to uncover them. Each word search has a theme, such as "government," which will be your clue in knowing what to look for. Success relies on your own vocabulary since your brain will recognize the words (it knows) when it comes upon them. These games all come with a key as well, so in the end you can check your score. If you missed any of the words, you may wish to look them up and add them to your vocabulary list(s).

5. Hangman. A fill-in-the-black game where you get a certain number of chances to guess the word before a dire consequence happens to the "hangman;" i.e. his demise. Variations of the game replace the hangman with other characters/situations, but the basic rules remain the same. It's like Wheel of Fortune, only without the fortune and with a hangman. As with crosswords, Jumble, and word searches, hangman games have themes to help players get started. It's said that the game's history dates back to Victorian times. A player's success will again rely on his/her own vocabulary. If the game is lost and the word revealed in the end is one new to you, mark it as a word to learn and remember from then on.

What's great about word games like the ones above is that they manage to help us expand our vocabulary without seeming like instruction. Indeed, there's nothing quite like wowing the room with a 50-point Scrabble bonus you didn't even know you had. But your brain did. It's a proud moment!