Word Search: What Is It?, Objective, Purpose, And More!

Cartoon playing word search puzzle
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For many years I have enjoyed puzzling over a Word Search. I would curl up on the couch or in bed, or sometimes even sit at the kitchen table, for hours, hunting down the elusive words featured on the puzzle’s list. During those times, I gave little thought to the how and why of Word Search. Its objective and purpose did not mean much to me. All I knew was that it meant hours of quiet enjoyment for me, and that was enough. 

I was recently asked about the actual object and purpose of the puzzle and felt it was worth giving it a bit of thought. I discovered the general meaning, objective, purpose, as well as benefits of Word Search.

  • Word Search is a word puzzle, invented in 1968 by Norman E. Gibat, that involves searching for words in a grid of letters. 
  • The objective of Word Search is to locate a list of words hidden on a grid. As each of the words is located, they are circled on the grid and then struck from the list.
  • The purpose of Word Search is to be entertained as well as educated. Of course, finding all the words means that the puzzle is “solved”.

There are many benefits of Word Search, from improving spelling and vocabulary to reducing stress and improving context clue fluency.

These are just the summarized points pertaining to what a Word Search is, what its objective is, and what its purpose is. There’s always more to the story, isn’t there? If these points have piqued your interest and you want to learn more about Word Search, simply read on. Below I go into a bit more detail on each of the abovementioned points.

Word Search: What it is all about!

What is doing a Word Search all about? What is the draw, so to speak? Doing a Word Search should be somewhat of a ritual – at least it is for me. How do you make Word Search a ritual, you ask? 

Woman sitting in sofa doing word search puzzles
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You find a comfortable spot. You have the puzzle, your pen/pencil, and quietness all on the ready. You make yourself comfy and fully engross yourself in the task for as long as it takes. For me, that is what a Word Search puzzle is all about. It is about disconnecting from the rest of the world and getting lost in the words. Most of all, it is about expanding my mind while completely relaxing and unwinding. When I was a kid, my parents used to describe this behavior as “being in the Word Search zone” – and they were right!

Ok! You might be wondering, but what exactly is Word Search. Well, it is a word puzzle that came out in the 1960s. 

In Spain, it is known as “Sopa de Letras” (which means Soup of Letters), and it was first publicized by Pedro Ocón de Oro in the 1960s. In North America, it was first published by Norman E. Gibat in 1968 in his Selenby Digest. At the time, Gibat hoped that the puzzle would drum up some new interest in his digest, and it certainly did. It was not long before teachers were requesting extra copies of the digest and the puzzle to give to kids in the classroom, and before too long, word of the puzzle had spread. And as they say, “the rest is history”.

What is the Objective of Word Search?

Let’s talk about the underlying objective of the Word Search puzzle. Above, I mentioned that the objective of Word Search is to locate a list of words hidden on a grid of letters. The grid consists of what appears to be a selection of jumbled letters, but if you look closely, you will find certain words nestled in between these letters. The more you do Word Search, the easier it seems to be become finding those hidden words. 

The main objective of the game is to consult with a list of words supplied with the grid, and find all the words on that list. The puzzle is usually given a theme, and the words on the list typically fit in with this particular theme. Puzzlers must spend time investigating the grid and applying various strategies to locate the words on the grid and circle them. 

Word search game example
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The strategies are not complex; in fact, they are quite simple. One can methodically look through each row horizontally and vertically as one strategy. Another strategy is to focus on finding words on the grid and then locating them on the list (working in reverse order). Once the words are circled on the grid, they must be marked off on the list.  

Of course, when there is a mystery Word Search puzzle at hand, the objective is similar, but not quite the same. Instead of a list of words being provided, the puzzler must focus on the theme of the Word Search and then hunt for hidden words in the grid that pertain to that particular theme. The objective of this particular type of Word Search is not to find listed words, but to find words that are hidden instead.

What is the Purpose of Word Search?

You might be wondering if there is any real purpose to Word Search puzzles and other word puzzles too. The truth is that there is – which is good news, right? It is not just about passing the time, but also about deriving some enjoyment and benefits from it. Just like many other games and puzzles, there is always a purpose. Most of these word games and puzzles are designed to provide entertainment, but that is not all. Other purposes included:

  • Creating the opportunity for families and peers to bond. 
  • Educating people or teaching a new skill.

 Of course, Word Search puzzles cater to both of these purposes. Generally speaking, the purpose of Word Search is to entertain, educate, and bring people together. I can quite confidently say that it has done each of these things in my life.

What are the Benefits of Word Search?

Are there any benefits to doing Word Search puzzles on a regular basis? Yes, there is, but the catch is that you do actually have to solve them or work on them regularly in order to enjoy these benefits. 

People celebrating benefits of doing word search
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Something that has been noticed is that people who do Word Search puzzles, both young and old, enjoy a variety of benefits. These benefits are simply undeniable, and if you are looking to add value to your life, doing regular Word Search puzzles is the way to go. You can solve them alone, with your partner, or even as a family or group of friends. It can be something done in quiet time, or it can be a social activity – Word Search is quite versatile in that way. Doing Word Search puzzles is always fun. 

Below are a few of the benefits of regularly solving Word Search puzzles:

  • You enjoy a sense of achievement or accomplishment when all the words are found.
  • Time spent doing Word Search puzzles is time away from screens and social media. If you want less screen time for yourself or the kids, Word Search is the way to go.
  • You get to expand your mind by learning new words (bigger vocab) and learning how to spell them. A bigger vocab and better spelling skills mean good things for your future prospects.
  • You get to relax, unwind, and minimize stress levels. 
  • You get to have fun.
  • The more Word Search puzzles you do, the more advanced your context clue fluency will become. You will be able to tie concepts, ideas, and conversations together with greater ease. This means that Word Search puzzles actually improve communication.

These are just a few of the benefits of doing Word Search puzzles. If you take the time to really delve into the benefits, especially for kids, you might find that it gives them something to look forward to and is a good confidence booster too. 

Last Word

As an avid puzzler, it is easy for me to say that Word Search is the obvious choice for those looking for a word game or puzzle. 

The best thing to do, now that you know the objective, purpose, and benefits, is to get your hands on a Word Search or two, and try it out for yourself. You will find a variety of Word Search puzzles online free to download and print. Alternatively, you can buy a puzzle book or even download an app on your mobile device from your relevant app store. Whichever way you get your Word Search to test, just focus on relaxing and enjoying it. Good luck!