ESL Games: Word Ditto

The Game: Word Ditto explores multiple meaning words. Multiple meaning words are just that: They have two or more meanings.

There are two main types of multiple meaning words:

  • Those that sound alike (ex. bark as in the bark of a tree and the bark of a dog)
  • Those that sound differently (ex. windy as in a windy day and a windy road)

Within these two main groups of multiple meaning words, there can be differences in:

  • Capitalization (ex. You may see flowers in May.)
  • Punctuation (ex. He prepared a résumé to find a job to resume working.)
  • Parts of speech (ex. I like to fish (verb). The fish (noun) swam in the sea.)
  • Tenses (ex. My aunt read the books that you like to read.)
  • Degrees – literal or figurative (ex. My apartment is below yours. The corporal ranks below the general.)


  • 36 index cards
  • markers (6 assorted colors)
  • a die
  • multiple meaning words and definitions

How to Play

Students can play individually or in groups.

  1. Place the numbered cards in a row across the table.
  2. Shuffle each set of colored cards and turn them over in a separate pile next to each numbered card.
  3. The first student or group shakes a die. Depending on the number, they turn the first card over in that corresponding pile. (If all of the cards for that color are used, the student forfeits a turn.)
  4. The student, with teacher help (depending on proficiency level), reads the card.
  5. The student tries to figure out the multiple meaning word.
  6. If correct, one point is awarded.
  7. Play moves to the next person.
  8. If incorrect, the answer is read aloud by the teacher.
  9. The game is over when all of the cards are used.

How to Make It

  1. First, prepare the Word Ditto cards. Take 6 cards and number each 1 through 6 using a different colored marker.
  2. Next, copy the 30 multiple meaning definitions below (and/or add some of your own) onto the index cards. You will make 5 cards using each marker color.Untitled2Untitled3
  3. Prepare an answer sheet for the teacher only.


  1. The number cards can be arranged on a blackboard or whiteboard with the Word Ditto cards placed on a table alongside the wall and underneath the numbered cards.
  2. Play continues until a certain number of points is reached or a certain amount of time has passed.
  3. Don’t use the die. Instead, shuffle the cards as one deck and turn one card over at a time.
  4. Don’t play for points.
  5. For more advanced students, require them to also state the parts of speech for each meaning before they’re awarded points on a turn.

Examples of Multiple Meanings to Use, and Answers

  1. To bounce a basketball. To drip milk from your chin. (dribble)
  2. Famous people who live in Hollywood. Things in the night sky. (stars)
  3. What fighters do in the ring. A cardboard container. (box)
  4. A game you play on a table. A place to swim. (pool)
  5. The sound of a clock. A bug you might find on a dog. (tick)
  6. A part of your leg. A baby cow. (calf)
  7. Something that flies at night. Something you swing at a ball. (bat)
  8. A whole bunch of fish. The place where you take classes. (school)
  9. Things you touch when you play the piano. Things you need when you are locked out of the car. (keys)
  10. Something you write with. Where a pig lives. (pen)
  11. A computer part. A furry creature. (mouse)
  12. Something you wear on your finger. The sound that a bell makes. (ring)
  13. Things you wait in. Things that make up a drawing. (lines)
  14. Some unique characteristic of an elephant. A place to keep a spare tire. (trunk)
  15. Things that grow on your fingers. Things that hold boards together. (nails)
  16. Another name for a king or queen. Something you use to measure. (ruler)
  17. Things you can pour juice into. Things that can help you see more clearly. (glasses)
  18. Something worn on your wrist. What you do to a television. (watch)
  19. A place where a road goes two ways. A utensil used for eating. (fork)
  20. Something worn around the neck. A football game with both teams having the same score. (tie)
  21. A type of bird. What you do to avoid getting hit in the head. (duck)
  22. Something on a wrapped package. Something used to shoot an arrow. (bow)
  23. The edge of a river. A place where people keep their money. (bank)
  24. A tree that grows in warmer weather. A part of your hand. (palm)
  25. When you look around on the Internet. Something you might do in big waves. (surf)
  26. A layer of paint. Something you wear when it’s cold outside. (coat)
  27. Something you put on toast. A lot of traffic. (jam)
  28. A part of a tree. The sound a dog makes. (bark)
  29. An event similar to a carnival. In accordance to the rules. (fair)
  30. A type of container made of metal. What a motivated person says: “I ___!” (can)

Have fun with this game! And please feel free to share any other variations that you find worked with your students and your context.


About Marc Anderson

Marc Anderson
Marc Anderson is the CEO of online English training company that teaches English online to students around the world. During his free time he likes to read, travel and enjoy life.
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