AskDefine | Define charades

Dictionary Definition

charades n : player acts out a phrase for others to guess

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Plural of charade
  2. A game in which participants act out a word or phrase for others to guess



Extensive Definition

Charades or charade ( shə-rahdz or /ʃəˈre(ɪ):dz/ shə-raidz) is a word guessing game. In the form most commonly 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 heard with this meaning nowadays, the word 'charade' 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, the British Give Us a Clue, and much more recently the 2005 debut of Celebrity Charades on the AMC television network in America. 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. Charades was invented by Evan Metayer a teacher of the mute, in order to allow his pupils to express themselves more freely.

Rules of the acted charade

The rules of the acted charades used vary widely and informally, but these rules, in some form, are common to most players:
  • The players divide into two teams.
  • Each player writes a phrase on a slip of paper to create the phrases to be guessed by the other team provided with a randomly selected word or phrase in secret (usually on a slip of paper drawn from a container), and then has a limited period of time in which to convey this to his teammates.
  • No sounds or lip movements are allowed. 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 he is helping his teammates.
  • Usually, any gesture is allowed other than blatantly spelling out the word, but some play that 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 teams alternate until each team member has had an opportunity to pantomime.
Since so many rules can vary, clarifying all the rules before the game begins can avoid problems later.

Standard signals

A number of standard signals have come into common usage in charades, though they are not required. To indicate the general category of a word or phrase:
Stand with hands on hips.
Unfold your hands as if they were a book.
Pretend to crank an old-fashioned movie camera.
Pretend to pull the rope that opens a theater curtain.
Pretend to sing.
Draw a rectangle to outline the TV screen.
Make quotation marks in the air with your fingers.
Make a circle with one hand, then point to it, as if pointing to a dot on a map.
Point to your wrist as if you were wearing a watch. Alternatively, hold hands up beside your head and make "spirit fingers" (wave fingers back and forth franticly) simulating confetti or a crowd in the background.
Using both hands out stretched move thumbs like using a gamepad.
Hold your hand out, palm down, horizontal to the ground (as if holding a computer mouse). Make a sweeping motion side to side, as if moving a coconut half on table ("navigating"), then stop and tap index finger (as if "clicking").
Make the "crazy" signal, i.e. point to your head and wave your finger in a circle.
To indicate other characteristics of the word or phrase:
Hold up the number of fingers.
Hold up the number of fingers again.
Lay the number of fingers on your arm.
Lay the number of fingers on your arm again.
Make a "little" or "big" sign as if you were measuring a fish.
Sweep your arms through the air.
Point at your nose with one hand, while pointing at the person with your other hand.
Cup one hand behind an ear, or pull on your earlobe.
Pretend to stretch a piece of elastic.
Do a "karate chop" with your hand.
Link your little fingers.
Tap the top of your head with an open palm.
Wave your hand over your shoulder toward your back.
Move your hand in a chopping motion toward your arm (near the top of your forearm if the letter is near the beginning of the alphabet, and near the bottom of your arm if the letter is near the end of the alphabet).
Point to your tongue, then point to an object of the color you're trying to convey. If no objects are available, then pantomime an object that typically possesses the color in question.
Frantically wave your hands about to keep the guesses coming, or pretend to fan yourself, as if to say "getting hotter".
Wave hand in a wide sweep, as if to say "go away!" Alternatively, pretend to shiver, as if to say "getting colder".
The hand is moved as if flushing a toilet, meaning forget whatever has been done till now and to start afresh.
Clasp your hands together and then, rotating your clasped hands from the wrists, simulate multiple figure 8's.
Form each hand into a hitchhiker's thumb signal, then with the backs of the hands facing away from you, cross your forearms and make the thumbs travel in opposing directions, thus "opposite".
Hold both arms out in front of you, palms of your hands waving, facing your teammates, while simultaneously shaking your head, eyes closed.

Signals for common words

Some conventions have also evolved about very common words:
  • "A" is signed by steepling index fingers together. Following it with either the stretching rubber band sign or "close, keep guessing!" sign, will often elicit "an" and "and". (sometimes "and" is signed by pointing at ones palm with the index finger)
  • "I" is signed by pointing at one's eye, or one's chest.
  • "the" is signed by making a "T" sign with the index fingers. The "close, keep guessing!" sign will then usually elicit a rigmarole of other very common words starting with "th".
  • "That" is signed by the same aforementioned "T" with the index fingers and immediately followed by one flattened hand tapping the head for a "hat", thus the combination becoming "that". Following this with the "opposite" sign indicates the word "this."
  • Pretending to paddle a canoe can be used to sign the word "or."
  • For "on," make your index finger leap on to the palm of your other hand. Reverse this gesture to indicate "off." The off motion plus a scissor-snipping action makes "of".
  • Other common small words are signed by holding the index finger and thumb close together, but not touching.
Note that these signals are standardized by general consensus only, and may vary somewhat from place to place.

See also

charades in German: Scharade
charades in Spanish: Charadas
charades in French: Charade
charades in Dutch: Hints
charades in Polish: Kalambury
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