Improve Your Vocabulary With The Dictionary Game

The Dictionary Game is about as much fun as you can have with a group of people, a dictionary or two, and some paper and pens. Trust us, this is a truly hilarious game, and is also a great way to expand and improve your vocabulary!

Tip: If you are serious about improving your vocabulary, then Troy and I highly recommend you try the popular vocabulary program, Ultimate Vocabulary. Click Ultimate Vocabulary for further information.*

This dictionary game works best with at least 4 people, and for up to about 8 or 10. It doesn't work with 2 players, and won't be that good with 3. You don't need to have a good vocabulary to be a good player, and it's a good family game, kids can certainly join in.

First of all gather your equipment :

  • A dictionary; a pocket dictionary will do in a pinch, but the bigger and more comprehensive it is the better. Two dictionaries if you want play to run more quickly (see note at end).
  • Scrap note paper for each participant, all the same paper (don't have different colours for each person)
  • A pen for each participant

Here's how to play!

Step 1

Choose the person who goes first, roll a dice, play Rock Paper Scissors, tussle it out ... or just agree between yourselves. This main player gets control of the dictionary.

Step 2

The main player checks out the dictionary and selects a weird word from the dictionary. It needs to be a word that the others players are not familiar with. For this example, we'll choose "fulgent". Say the word aloud and ask the other players if they know it or not. Once you've got agreement on a good weird and unusual word that no-one knows, the fun begins!

Step 3

Spell the word out, and everyone writes it down on their piece of paper. You (the main player) copy out the definition of the word from the dictionary, word for word. So, in this case, you'd write :

"Fulgent: adjective. Shining, brilliant"

Now, the silly and fun part is that each of the other players get to invent a definition for the word, and writes it down on their piece of paper. It's important to make the bogus definitions sound as "real" as possible, in "dictionary-speak", if you like. Each player's goal is to trick the other players into thinking that their definition is the correct one!

Step 4

Everyone folds their paper in half, and passes them up to you, the main player (who has the dictionary, and knows the real definition).

Let's say there are 3 players, Catherine, Dylan, and Michael, in addition to you, the main player, and they submit the following invented definitions for fulgent::

Catherine: noun, lubricant for a flywheel regulator in a steam engine.

Dylan: adjective, descriptive of a bland ingredient that absorbs other flavours easily, such as rice.

Michael: noun, a residual payment owed to a solicitor after a successful law suit.

You add in the correct definition: adjective, shining, brilliant

Step 5

You shuffle all the definitions, and read each one out aloud to the group, with as straight a face as possible! The players vote on which one they think is the actual definition. If a player guesses the correct answer, they win 5 points. If a player's made-up definition is chosen by another player (who thinks it's the real one) they win 10 points. If no-one guesses the real definition, you (the main player) wins 10 points. Collect votes first, reveal the correct answer after everyone has placed their votes.

For example:

If Catherine thinks your definition is the correct one (and it is!), she wins 5 points.

If Dylan thinks that Michael's legal definition is the real one, Michael wins 10 points.

If no-one guesses the correct one, you win 10 points.

Make a note of the players' scores on a separate piece of paper.

Step 6

The dictionary passes to the next person in the group, and they choose a new word. Play continues in this way until everyone has had a turn as main player. This constitutes one round. You can play just one round, or three, or more, whatever you like!

Note: If you want to be more efficient, have two dictionaries on hand, and the person who will be main player next can be looking for their "weird word" while the play is happening in the previous hand.

This game is a great way to improve your vocabulary, as you're likely to remember the words that have been included in the game for some time. Just make sure you don't remember the made-up definitions as well! You can always add the words you've played into a word list in Ultimate Vocabulary, and then practise that list in your own time.

*Troy and I recommend only products that we have tried and tested. These include Ultimate Vocabulary. We have agreed to receive a commission from some sales of Ultimate Vocabulary software because we are happy to endorse that software.


Last modified on Tuesday, 17 November 2015 04:48
English Language Skills (Denise)

English Language Skills (Denise)

I'm a syndicated puzzle writer, with 8 puzzle books to my name, including Word Searches for Dummies and Cracking Codes and Cryptograms for Dummies (with Mark Koltko-Rivera). I have a background in science and graphic design, and am a trained indexer. My favourite puzzles are cryptic crosswords. and my favourite books are murder mysteries and cookbooks. I am also a very keen knitter.

I write a blog all about puzzles, called Puzzling.

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