What's the Best Word Association Game for You?

word association game with four people

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The best thing about word games is their immense variety. There are the games you play on your computer or dining room table, but there are also the games you can play with just the words you say. Any word association game can be entertaining and educational (as any good word game should be).

What makes word association games reliable playtime options? It’s the fact that they’re word association games, emphasis on the plural. There are multiple types, and each version has its benefits. The one that’s right for you depends on why you’re playing and who you’re playing with. That’s why we’ve included a number of options in this word association game list.

Word Association: The Classic Game

This word association game option is the “original” one. It’s original in the sense that it’s the simplest and it serves as the basis of all other versions. When you’re searching for word association games online, you’re always going to find this one, so we’d be crazy not to list it first and foremost.

  1. To start playing, one player needs to pick a word. This can be any word they want, or everyone can agree on a limited list of words to play with. The choice is yours.

  2. After that, other players say words that relate to the first person’s word.

Yes, it really can be that simple.

Adding a Bit of Challenge

The two steps above really are all it takes to play the game. That’s why, if you want the game to be more of a competition, it’s a good idea to come up with some special rules before you start. Here are some suggestions.

  • Play with a time limit: First, designate the specific order that people should play. Then, once someone says a word, the next player must say their word within three to five seconds. If they don’t think of a word within that time limit, they are knocked out of the game.

  • Play in alphabetical order: Someone says a word, and then the next person tries to think of a related word. Their word, however, must start with the letter that comes next in the alphabet after the first letter of the first word. If they can’t think of a word, the turn passes to the next player. For example, the first player says the word “car.” The next player, to stay in alphabetical order, says “driver.”

  • Play with the same letter: Rather than using a different starting letter, you can also play using the same starting letter for every word. Though, you might have to ban words that start with X, Z or any other less common letter. For example, one player uses the word “sailing.” To match the word and the letter, the next player can say “sea” or “swimming.”

  • Play the “alpha and omega” game: Rather than playing with letters in alphabetical order or with the same starting letter, everyone needs to use words that start with the letter that the previous word ended with. This is also called a word chain game. For example, if someone says, “Feather,” the next person can give an answer like “robin.” The person after that might say, “Nest.

Themed Word Association Game

This word association game is a good option for people with shared interests. It’s a fun way to learn exactly how everyone thinks about a single subject.

  • Before you begin, everyone needs to agree on a theme or topic. Examples of good topics could be colors, hobbies, school subjects or popular music. 

  • When picking the first word, you need to make sure it’s related to the subject matter that everyone agreed on. For example, if you pick hobbies, the first word could be something like “golf.”

  • Once someone says the first word, the other players can give their responses. So, if the first word was “golf,” then good golf-related terms could be “stroke,” “fairway” and “driver.”

Secret Word Association Game

For a word association game that adds a bit of puzzle-solving to the mix, try playing with a secret word. This turns the game into a race to use the perfect word that narrows down what the secret word is. 

  • Start by picking a word, but don’t tell it to anyone. Instead, tell them a word associated with it. For example, if your word is “kitchen,” you could say something like “fork.”

  • Once they have their clue, the other players need to start giving replies that they believe are the secret word. 

  • Continuing with “fork” as the example, other players might guess “dinner,” “plate” or “spoon.” 

  • If they guess a word that isn’t related to the word, such as “sharp” or “steel,” you let them know.

Adding in a Point System

Another option for this game is to change the rules slightly and include a point system. 

  • To play this way, you need to pick multiple secret words rather than just one. 

  • When a player finds one of the secret words, they earn one point. 

  • You can also split people up into teams, which means that the team would score a point together. 

  • Once all of the secret words are found, the player with the most points wins the game.

Synonyms or Antonyms Word Association Game

If the other games seem a bit too easy, you can always increase the difficulty by playing with only synonyms or antonyms. This version forces everyone to not only pick associated words but also words that mean either the same or the opposite of the first word. For this game, having a strong vocabulary is a must.

  • The first player says the first word. For the sake of keeping the game going, it’s best that they choose a common word that they know has its fair share of synonyms or antonyms. A good example would be, well, “good.”

  • Depending on which version of the game you’re playing, everyone else must then provide a synonym or antonym of the first word. 

  • So, if the first word was “good” and you’re playing with synonyms, “great” or “wonderful” would work. 

  • If you’re playing with antonyms, ideal answers would be words like “bad” or “lousy.”

Rhyming Word Association Game

This is probably the most distinct word association game because the words don’t associate with each other like they do in the other games. For this one, it’s all about making the words rhyme with each other instead.

  • This one starts out the same as the basic form of the game. 

  • One player picks and says any word they want, assuming you didn’t agree on any limitations.

  • From there, every player needs to come up with a word that rhymes with that first word. The replies can be associated with the first word, but it’s not necessarily a requirement.

Take the Fun on the Road

One of the best things about playing a word association game is that you can play it anywhere. That can be somewhere fun like a party or somewhere that needs a bit of fun like a family reunion. Another place for these games is in the car. Actually, word association games are just some of the games you can play in the car to make the time fly by. WordFinder's list of road trip games has a bunch of them for you to discover and try on your next journey.

Zac Pricener has been a content creator for the past eight years. He’s a bit of an all-around nerd, and he has a bad habit of working movie and TV show references into conversations whenever possible.


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