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Charades or charade (pronounced /ʃəˈrɑːdz/ shə-rahdz or /ʃəˈreɪdz/ shə-raydz) is a word guessing game. In the form most played today, it is an acting game in which one player acts out a word or phrase, often by pantomiming similar-sounding words, and the other players guess the word or phrase. The idea is to use physical rather than verbal language to convey the meaning to another party. It is also sometimes called Activity, after the board game.


Brief background

Though less commonly it was originally also used to indicate a riddle either in verse or prose, of which the listener must guess the meaning, often given syllable by syllable—see riddle. In France the word 'charade' still refers to this kind of linguistic riddle.

Charades has been made into a television show in the form of the Canadian Acting Crazy and Party Game, the British Give Us a Clue, the American Body Language, and much more recently the 2005 American series Celebrity Charades. Give Us a Clue has also been parodied in Sound Charades, played on the BBC Radio 4 panel game show I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. The ISIHAC version, permits players to speak and so describe a scene (often a pun of the title word), which the opposing team has to guess.

Rules of the acted charade

The rules used for the acted charades are usually informal and vary widely, but commonly agree in essence with the following basic rules:

  • The players divide into two teams.
  • Each team in turn produces a "secret" word or phrase, to be guessed by the other team, and writes it on a slip of paper. Rules vary as to which phrases are allowed; single words may be restricted to nouns as found in dictionaries, while multi-word phrases usually are required to be commonly used phrases, or common expressions for well-known concepts. Often the secret phrases allowed are confined to titles of books, songs, or movies.
  • The slip of paper with the secret phrase is revealed to one member of the other team, the "actor", but kept secret from the remainder of the other team, the "guessers".
  • The actor then has a limited period of time in which to convey the secret phrase to the guessers by pantomime.
  • The actor may not make any sounds or lip movements. In some circles, even clapping is prohibited, while in others, the player may make any sound other than speaking or whistling a recognizable tune.
  • The actor cannot point out at any of the objects present in the scene, if by doing so they are helping their teammates.
  • Most commonly, the actor is allowed to make any gestures other than blatantly spelling out the word. In more stringent sets of rules, indicating anything about the form of the phrase is prohibited, even the number of words, so that only the meaning may be acted out.
  • The guessers attempt to guess the word or phrase based on the actor's performance. They can ask questions, to which the actor may give non-verbal responses, such as nodding in affirmation. If any of the guessers says the correct word or phrase within the time limit in the literal form as written on the slip, their team wins that round; if the phrase is not guessed when the time limit expires, the team that produced the secret phrase wins the round.
  • The teams alternate until each team member has had an opportunity to be the actor.

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