How to Build a Word Search Word List By Theme

word search word list by theme

Whether you wish to construct a word search, a crossword puzzle, worksheet, bingo, flashcard or a word list for some other activity, it helps to start with a theme.

What is a Word Search Theme?

In puzzles like crosswords and word searches, a “theme” is a specific topic or subject that is featured in the puzzle. Sometimes, every single clue or word in a puzzle is related to the theme. Other times, there may only be a handful of themativ. words or clues

Examples of Themes:
Word searches can really be about anything. Some examples of themes used in word searches might include:

  • Favorite snack foods
  • Parts of a cell
  • Famous authors
  • Vacation destinations
  • All-time best linebackers
  • Punny names of coutries
  • Names of students in your class
  • Mom’s favorite hobbies
  • Overlooked Renaissance painters

Do All Crosswords and Word Searches Have Themes?

Not always. You can just make a word search with random words. However, most crosswords and word searches you find in newspapers have some kind of theme.

A theme helps solvers understand the scope of the puzzle, it builds vocabulary, and it can be a lot of fun for certain events. With a little thought and creativity, you can build a word search word list by theme in a matter of minutes.

How to Create a Word List for Your Word Search Theme

Once you decide to create a word search with a theme, your next step is to create a list of words you want to include.

At first, it may be easy to come up with a few words. For example, if you were making a word search about Harry Potter, you might start with:

  • wand
  • owl
  • magic
  • Hogwarts
  • Butterbeer
  • Hermione
  • Ron
  • Muggles, and more.

However, after finding a few words, you may start to slow down or feel overwhelmed with options. Either way, these tips will help you create a preliminary word list, then narrow the list down to a succinct and perfect selection.

Tip 1: Break Theme Down into Sub-Themes

To generate more words, you can create lists of sub-themes. Let’s continue to use Harry Potter as an example theme. With books, you can create word lists that include things like:

  • Character names
  • Magical spells in the harry potter universe
  • Locations Harry spends the night
  • Subjects taught at Hogwarts
  • Items you need to get from to Diagon Alley.
  • A word list for each of the Hogwarts houses

If your theme is a little more generic than a single book, think of all of the elements that made you want to choose that theme in the first place. Decade themes provide a great example. A ‘70s themed word list could list famous people from the decade, clothing that was popular, historical events from the decade, and so much more.

In other words, decide how specific or generic you would like your theme to be. Then draw words from that element of the theme rather than trying to tackle every aspect of the theme.

Using Word List Resources to Fill Out Your Theme

You may have enough words on your own from the first exercise. If not, you can also look up different word lists or other resources to help you build a word search word list by theme.

A comprehensive list for general words such as this one can help. A thesaurus – either online or paperback – will give you unique words as well. Finally, you can see if anyone has built a word search with the same theme before.  This glossary exists for Harry Potter words alone! You can use these to get your own ideas going for your word list.

You can also use language learning models like ChatGPT to help you create word lists.

Using Other Word Searches for Inspiration

One final and clear-cut way to build a word search word list by theme is to look at other word searches with the same theme. Here’s a wonderful Harry Potter word search one individual made.


You can search our puzzles for ones that fit your theme, too. Open the “Find” button in your browser (with “Ctrl-F” on Windows or “Command-F” on Mac), then search the name of your theme.

Whenever you’re ready, go ahead and make your own puzzle! Remember – even if you don’t have a final word list, you can create one right in the word search maker. Just add words straight into the puzzle as you think of them. Plus, you can go back and change your word list at any time.

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