Doing Crossword Puzzles for English Vocabulary

English students strive to improve their English vocabulary.

They spend hours poring over huge lists of English words. Then spend even more hours doing vocabulary exercises.

It’s a very difficult process.

Trying to force all the new words to memory and to make sure that you know how to use each word correctly.

It becomes a great chore.

But I think a great way to help English students practise English vocabulary is to do crossword puzzles.

You can do crossword puzzles anywhere and everywhere — there are many apps and websites that you can use.

Let me show you how to use crosswords to help you remember more English words today.


What is a Crossword?


A crossword puzzle looks like this.


Published courtesy of Boatload Puzzles


It is a grid made up of white and black squares with a list of clues to the side that you have to solve.

The clues can help you guess the correct word and then you write or type the word in the appropriate set of squares.

You can write the words in two directions — across and down. Many of the words cross paths and the joining letters can help you guess more words.

Crosswords have been around for about a hundred years. They first appeared in newspapers. People would solve them on their way to work. It was a fun way to pass the time.

Later there were crossword puzzle magazines, but now we can find them online easily.


How can crosswords help with my English?


Usually, when English students practise English vocabulary they might do exercises like gap-fill or multiple choice. These can be very useful.

Gap-fill exercises can really help you in terms of using English words in context. While multiple-choice is good for memory.

Great practise no doubt.

But when you do a crossword puzzle, you are using a little more brainpower. You have to use detective work and you are using your cognitive abilities to find out the correct word.

Doing crossword puzzles are harder than gap-fill or multiple choice but it will help push your vocabulary skills into orbit.


What do I have to do?


Let’s take a look at a crossword puzzle example.


Published courtesy of Boatload Puzzles

You can find this crossword puzzle here — Boatload Puzzles.

If we look at the crossword above we can see the grid, all the squares and the clues.

The first thing you can do is to go through all the clues one by one. Are there any that you can solve easily? If so, type the word in the crossword.

Do this with any clues that you can solve immediately. Then you can go back to the harder clues.

So for me, I found these clues kind of easy to solve.

1 across — ACHE

8 across — OPEN

18 across – HER

20 across — ADDRESSES

Published courtesy of Boatload Puzzles


Now this can help me look for the following down clues:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 17, 19 and 21.


I found the following down clues very quickly:

1 down — ALPHA

3 down — HEARD

8 down — ORES

9 down — PEN

19 down — DESERTER

Published courtesy of Boatload Puzzles


This can now help us solve further clues across.

Eventually, you should be able to complete all the crossword — or most of it.


Crossword Puzzles Online


Now maybe the crossword puzzle we looked at just now is too difficult.

Don’t worry!

There are plenty more crosswords online — and they all range from easy to difficult.

Check out this great resource to start. The crosswords are all for beginners so if you are just starting to use them this is for you.

Crossword Puzzles for ESL Students – Easy

This page also has crosswords that are arranged in themes. So you can find crosswords arranged in categories of transport, countries, food or animals.


Once you feel more comfortable doing crosswords, you can go to the next level here:

Crossword Puzzles for ESL Students – Not So Easy


And of course please check out Boatload Puzzles too right here:

Boatload Puzzles


Once you become more proficient at solving crosswords and your English improves, you can try these places too.

The Guardian




I think crossword puzzles can be a great way for you to practise your English vocabulary.

Once you reach a certain level using gap-fill exercises and multiple-choice, then you need to start using critical and advanced cognitive thinking too.

That is where you can use crosswords to help you.

Use some of the links that I have added in the article above to help you.

And as always — let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

2 thoughts on “Doing Crossword Puzzles for English Vocabulary”

  1. Crossword puzzles are wonderful and can be like a ‘treat’ after the lesson. I love to create them for students at the end of a lesson and include the vocabulary words that were in that lesson. Some websites can easily build the puzzle for you.

    1. I think many teachers use hangman – which is a great game to play in an ESL class. But crosswords are also just as useful. Thanks for your comment Leona!

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