History of Word Games

Humans are naturally drawn to 'play', and it has been suggested that the first humans to ever engage in speech were also the same ones who created the concept of word games.

This suggests that word games are as old as language itself.

Where Does ‘Game’ Come From?

The word 'game' first emerged in Old English around 1200 CE. The word 'game' as we know it today first appeared as 'gamen,' and it is believed that the 'en' sound was lost accidentally when people spoke and mistook it as a suffix that could be removed.

During this time, ‘gamen’ was used as a word for joy and fun, to describe anything from glee to entertainment.

It is believed that during this time, the word 'game' was attached to events such as contests, chess, and backgammon. It is also thought to be heavily attached to the sporting area, where the word could be used to describe events like hunting, fishing, or fowling.

In these sports, wild animals are caught for sport and became known as game.

This is a term you have probably heard before and is a way that we can see the development of the word game clearly, right up to the way we use it today.

What About Organised Games?

By the mid 1500s, the word ‘game’ was becoming more commonly used to describe a type of play or sport. Essentially, these were the ‘games’ that people participated in.

For some sports and play, ‘game’ became ‘gambling’ and quickly became the word we know and understand today.

When we say the word 'game,' this can bring up different images for everyone based on your experience. For some people, it may bring up crossword puzzles and similar word games, but for others, it may still be linked to gambling, such as card games.

Crossword puzzles could be one of the first organized word games to be created, making this an interesting tidbit for word game players today.

The word 'puzzle' first appeared around the 1590s and was used to mean a 'perplexing question.'

However, by the 1800s, this word had taken on a new meaning and became a 'toy contrived to test one's ingenuity.' While the core meaning of this word hasn't really changed, it is clear to see that the context did over time.

Word Games Today

With this brief history, we can see how word games might have evolved as a way to test someone’s language skills or their intelligence.

As you can see with the initial meaning of the word 'game,' these challenges likely began as fun pastimes before evolving into competitions and educational outlets that we know today.

The word games that we play today, whether for fun or competition, are probably not much different from their originals.

For as long as humans could read and write, we have played with words. With the internet and other opportunities available now, we have more ways than ever to continuing enjoying these activities.