Skip links

It’s on the Tip of my Tongue. 5 Word Finding Strategies!

Have you ever had the experience of knowing what you want to say but being unable to think of the words? This frustrating problem happens to everyone at one point or another but tends to be a common difficulty that our clients with Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) deal with on a regular basis. Here are five easy strategies to help when you just can’t think of the word:

  1.  Describe the word or item in an organized way. Use the following questions to help you: What kind of thing is it?  What does it do?  What is it used for?  What are its parts?  What are its attributes?  Where is it found?  What do I associate with it?
  2.  Circumlocution (circular talk) means talking about the subject or word in a roundabout way. Say as much as you can about it to help get your message across and to help you think of the word. For example: “cook, heat, food” = stove.
  3.   Use gestures, pointing, or pantomiming to help demonstrate what you mean.
  4.  Substitute another word for the one you are trying to think of. This can be done in two ways:

 a)    Synonym – use a word that has the same or a similar meaning

         e.g. “cup” for mug

 b)    Antonym – use a word with an opposite meaning (e.g. “it is not big” for small)


  1. Try to think of the sound that the word starts with by going through each letter of the alphabet in your mind. While this strategy is effective, it is slow and is best used when the word you are trying to think of is part of a limited category.


By: Shira Silver, Speech-Language Pathologist at Simone Friedman Speech-Language Services

Leave a comment

This website uses cookies to improve your web experience.