There are many excellent vocabulary games that can help you remember words and learn the differences between related or similar words. ESL Games gives information and simple rules for many games that can be used to practice English in the classroom or at home.
This page lists online (interactive) or pdf vocabulary games and activities on this website. You can play these even if you are alone, and not in an English class.
Their purpose is to practice learning a particular group of words, often academic words related to a theme like technology, an interesting or inspiring group of people, or scientific research on a subject.
The page starts with short explanations of academic vocabulary and of the reasons games are valuable for language practice.
Vocabulary game and practice sections include
Most of the words in these vocabulary practice activities are very common in English, though they’re not beginner vocabulary.
Many are Academic Vocabulary (mainly from the Academic Word List), often grouped because they are found in one or more interesting articles on the Internet. (Some have a link to those articles after the practice so you can read the words in context.) Some can also be practiced on a (linked) quiz.
Sign up for English Detective, our free newsletter, to practice a little English vocabulary systematically. Most of these games and activities came from there. (See the sign up form at the bottom of the right column-- or at the bottom of the page.)
Games are one of the best ways to learn vocabulary, because categorizing and manipulating words helps make neural connections in the brain. So they help you remember words better (and remind you of what you already know.)
Many content areas will have several different activities to give more practice with important groups of AWL words. Some words will overlap, but others will be different on different pages, since there are too many words in many areas to teach in just one game.
Several of these pages have explanations of many of the words before the chance to practice them. If you prefer, try the game first. You can check any explanations you need afterwards, if you have questions about some words.
Many of these games will also link to a pdf version, for if you want to practice the same game offline. Some games also have a section for choosing the best categories for words. These sections are not interactive; just use pencil and paper to write the category and the words that belong there.
For small collections of free or inexpensive pdfs to use in classrooms for vocabulary games and practice, see also Vocabulary Worksheets.
Former sections of this page on categorizing, gapfill, and multiple choice practice have been moved to the TOEFL & IELTS Vocabulary Practice section, since they are not really "games," though they are useful practice activities.
Matching Word Roots and their Meanings
* Each of these memory game pages has a link to its mobile version, so if you have a small screen and can't turn it to see the regular 4x3 card grid, you can click the mobile link in the first or second paragraph to get a long, narrow (2x6) grid of cards to turn over.
Unscramble words games (also called word scrambles or word jumbles) are a hands-on way to get more familiar with English word formation and spelling. The explanation for these games is all on the first unscramble words game, but you can reach any of the others from either that page or this one. (Each word is on a separate page because of their interactive coding.)
I split them by part of speech or subject to make them easier. If you don't want any hints, try the Mixed Group games. All of the words in the adjective and noun unscrambles are in the first (most common) level of the Academic Word List.
If you want to know which themes, vocabulary, readings, and quizzes each game on this page is associated with, see Academic Vocabulary Word Lists. (It's organized by newsletter number, but you can do a search (Control-F, for "find") on those pages for each game's name. The games above are mainly listed in the same order. The first games in each category are connected with the earliest newsletters.)
Home page> Vocabulary Games and Practice Activities.