Some evidence exists supporting a relationship between spreading activation in semantic/lexical memory networks and episodic memory. However, the results have been mixed and there have been no investigations examining whether a relationship exists between variability in spreading activation and episodic memory. Hence, we sought to investigate these potential relationships. Thirteen individuals were administered the Hopkins Verbal Learning Test-Revised (HVLT-R) and the Controlled Oral Word Association Test (COWAT). The average word frequency of all the "F" words generated on the COWAT was used as a measure of spreading activation. Variability in spreading activation was assessed by calculating the variability of the word frequencies from the COWAT across time. The results confirmed our hypotheses, with significant negative correlations found between free recall on the HVLT-R and both the average word frequency and measures of variability in spreading activation. © 2013 Taylor & Francis.