The etiology of individual differences in general verbal ability, verbal learning and letter and category fluency were examined in two independent samples of 9- and 18-year-old twin pairs and their siblings. In both age groups, we observed strong familial resemblance for general verbal ability and moderate familial resemblance for verbal learning, letter and category fluency. All familial resemblance was explained by genetic factors. There was significant covariance among the tests, which was stronger in magnitude in the adolescent cohort. The covariance was mainly explained by genetic effects shared by subtests, both in middle childhood and in late adolescence. In addition to a shared set of genes that influenced all phenotypes, there were also genetic influences specific to the different verbal phenotypes. © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.