Like having fun with words? Like feeding people (even if on a tiny scale)? Head right over to Free Rice and start playing. They give you a word with four possible definitions; pick the right one and they donate ten grains of rice to a hungry person through an aid agency. (Don’t say “why don’t they just give the rice,” because the rice is funded through ad revenue which they get by hits, and each time you move to the next page of choices they get another hit and can buy more rice. No game, no views, no ad revenue, no rice.) As you get words right, you move up to higher levels; the highest is Level 50, and I’ve managed to stay there for fairly long periods… but then they stump me with a word like nisus (yes, I should have studied harder in Latin class) and I drop back down. I found it at MetaFilter, and as a commenter said there, “I’m sure the people who put this together had fun.. one of the (incorrect) choices for the meaning of ‘cockloft’ was ‘womb’.” I responded “Yeah, I think that’s why this is so much fun: the people who created it really care about words and have a sneaky sense of humor. Most ‘word game’ sites use stupid words and/or definitions and pall quickly.” Give it a try, but don’t blame me if it eats up your morning.


  1. … or a particularly dull late afternoon 🙂

  2. fabulous! a great way to test myself, practice my language skills, and contribute to a good cause all at once.

  3. Great site! I made it to 48 at one point, but mostly I’m in the lower- and mid-forties.

  4. Bah, amazing winning streak ended by ‘griot’.

  5. mollymooly says

    Actually, hat, you can get to the hidden level of 51 after 100 straight correct.

  6. Is that true or are you just yanking my chain? Because if I grit my teeth and spend hours doing that only to find out that you were just joshing me, you are so banned…

  7. komfo,amonan says

    I paid a short visit to 50. Many of the advanced words are unknown to me, but not too hard to guess. The nature of multiple choice, I suppose.

  8. Awesome. After a “practice period” of about 10 minutes, I held my score between 47 and 50 continuously back and forth for about a half hour.

  9. Jonathan Mayhew says

    I reached 50 a few times but couldn’t break past that point. Then I’d miss a few in a row and get taken down to 45. I did note that some words start to repeat after about 15 minutes… Highly addictive.

  10. I don’t think you can break past 50, despite mollymooly’s sneaky promise. It is indeed addictive.

  11. Dammit, I can’t get past 46. Time for cheats, perhaps?

  12. Dude, you’re a Slovak—46 is terrific!

  13. mollymooly says

    Yes, I was fibbing. I got to 50 with louche and took that as a sign to quit while I was ahead. Please don’t ban me: I only did it for the rice, and you’re all so nice around here.

  14. Oh, all right, since you ask so nicely, and you’ve donated so much rice.

  15. Heh, you guys are doing pretty good. Me, of course, I got promoted to level 60 immediately. Something to do with how intelligently I type. All the ads are for particle accelerators and Haskell libraries now.

  16. I donated 2,000 grains, so that made me feel pretty good; I didn’t pay attention to the vocabulary level, but I found myself going back through my Aeneid translation lines trying to visualize the vocabulary 😛

  17. 47 so far, but it’s only been fifteen minutes. 🙂

  18. Am starting to see a disturbing, but hilarious pattern: if you have no clue what it could be, it’s probably an antelope. =X-D

  19. Does anyone kow what happened to this site? It’s gone…

  20. Must have been a momentary glitch—it’s there now.

  21. I still can’t access it, I keep getting 404’s or some sort of “This server has been updated” messages. .(

  22. Whoo-hoo, 50!

  23. Level 44 at a 1000 grains. I think my maximum was 45 …
    But I finally learnt the meaning of “prodigal” – I have no idea why I’ve never looked it up before. I know I’ve wondered just what “The Prodigal Son” meant exactly, but since I obviously knew the parable, I just never came round to doing anything about it.
    Level 46 at 2000 grains. Quite a few repetitions already, so I’ll give up.
    Interesting, though, to see how many I got right by just educated guessing from the smattering of French, German, Latin and Swedish I possess.

  24. Jonathan Mayhew says

    Through dint of repetition and learning the words I find I can stay hovering between 48 and 50 for a while. It’s helpful because I have those words like “nugatory” that I’ve looked up countless times in the dictionary and can’t seem to learn permanently. Now I’ll never forget what it means. Also I never knew that compendious meant “succinct” before. I thought it meant simply comprehensive, complete.

  25. marie-lucie says

    I went up to 8000 grains before calling it quits. My score was helped by the occurrence of a number of French words, as well as a now distant acquaintance with Latin, but I too thought some of the definitions rather peculiar. I did not run into “compendious” but “succinct” does not strike me as the correct synonym.
    I remember a longish discussion last year about what counts as an English word – a lot of the words on those lists I would not necessarily count as such.

  26. Interesting, reached level 50 and donated 500 grains of rice, and then I started feeling stupid, thus the need to search for a partner:

  27. I did not run into “compendious” but “succinct” does not strike me as the correct synonym.
    But it is. OED (my bold):
    “Containing the substance within small compass, concise, succinct, summary; comprehensive though brief; esp. of literary works; also of their authors.”
    It’s from Latin compendium “that which is weighed together, a sparing, saving, abbreviation.”
    I’ve been taken aback by a few of their answers, but when I check with the OED, they’re always right.

  28. David Harmon says

    Very cool… I’ve spread the meme to a couple of other sites. My high-school Latin is definitely helping a lot! 😉

  29. wow, you guys are great!
    English is my second (or third) language, and i only manage to start up with level 30+ and so far manage to reach level 38 by accident.
    and my rice count is currently 11,320 😛
    and guess what, there is a small surprise when u reach 10,000. I was motivated to reach 10,000 since
    1) i am curious about what the picture rice piles will become
    2) and tried to level up and learning vocab
    and this surprise i said is real, not just for the rice, lol..
    the surprise will disappear once u reace 10,010, so u better watch out when u reach 9,990.
    and stop to look around when u reach 10,000. it is quite obvious if u look at the rice bowl/coconut shell.
    are these words pulled out from SAT/GRE book?
    anybody know how to contact the webmaster of
    i am going to suggest them to put in more surprise, vocab, hall of fame (by making an account which ur rice accumulate and ur name/nickname is listed) that way u know ur rice is there, and more people will be hooked and at the same time feed.
    after thought, this is a brilliant concept.
    but, trying to achieve high amount of grains without the feature of memory/record/saving in your account requires ur com to stay open, which brings up another issue, humanity vs environmental issue. famine vs energy crisis vs population control (just kidding for the last part).
    and i currently working in dining hall, which throw away a lot of unfinished food everyday. they have this rule: workers caught eating food that are going to be thrown are considered theft.
    I wonder what is going on in the manager’s mind, his job’s not only to make sure the dining hall run smoothly, but it is also his responsibility to make sure the dining hall doesn’t waste food or wasting materials to make inedible ‘food’ and end up in trash.
    There is also another story I learnt from economics class. United State obviously can produce more then the citizen can consume. the agriculture sector lobby the authority to make sure their goods are either bought and export (for money). If there are surplus, they want the excess be bought and go into waste rather than donate to poor countries for free. I am not sure how true is that, please tell me it is not true..

  30. Lars (the original one) says

    This still works, and now has levels up to 60.

    I level off at 50-52. The challenge is on!

  31. Damn you! I’m up to 58 and worn out — I have to take a nap now.

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