4 Reasons to Use a Themed Word List

This is National Poetry Month. I may be many things — writer, blogger, teacher — but I am not a poet. Still I’m attempting a poem a day as a form of writing play. As I attempt each poem, I find myself noodling over words that have to do with a set topic. One tool that would help me spin a poem on topics as diverse as the future and silence is a themed word list.

Dictionaries, thesaurus and themed word lists.
Photo by Nothing Ahead on Pexels.com

Many writers I know create their own lists, looking up sites, reading books, and skimming articles. They jot down the topic-related words that appeal to them. You can also visit MyVocabulary.com.  To access the word lists, find the blue ribbon at the top of the page and mouse over “Subject Word Lists.” The science lists include the themes of bees, bamboo and chemistry. Under vocational education, I found culinary arts as well as fire prevention and safety.

There are a variety of reasons you might need a themed word list.


Poetry is a compact writing form. Each work has to have maximum impact. A themed word list can help you find just the right word.


In a picture book text, I needed a variety of words to describe animal movement.  This text is super brief so the words needed to be descriptive and very specific. What word best describes a ptarmigan strolling across the tundra? I know it isn’t strolling but a themed list may give me some ideas.

Character POV

I have written about characters that knit, swim, and speak to wolves. Writing from each unique POV requires a specialized vocabulary when I look at the world through that character’s eyes. This means finding words that have to do with knitting or fiber, swimming, and wolves.


A friend of mine wrote a book that involved treasure.  She wanted to strengthen this theme in the story so she used words associated with metal to describe various sounds throughout her book.

Any time that you are working with a theme or a character’s interest, using related words strengthens the relationship between the layers in your story.  When I go looking for themed words, I don’t always end up using the exact words that I find, but these found-words are usually good for nudging me along and helping me think of my own list of words.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some writing to do.