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Hangman (Game): 16 Interesting Facts (Dark Origins, Trivia,…) 

Last Updated on January 7, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

Hangman Chalk Writing on Old Grunge Chalkboard
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No doubt you’ve played Hangman before. Guessing games have been our go-to for centuries, thanks to the fact that they keep us entertained, stimulate our minds, and help us cure boredom. 

While you’re probably an avid player of Hangman, how much do you really know about the game? Let’s take a look at several riveting facts that you may or may not have known about Hangman. The following points are some of the more interesting pieces of info surrounding Hangman that a lot of people do not know. 

Let’s jump right into discovering more about Hangman. 

16 things you probably don’t know about Hangman:

1. Some people believe Hangman evolved from a true story.

In the 17th century in Europe, prisoners facing the death sentence played the “Hangman’s Game.” A Hangman is a person who executes people by hanging them. The Hangman would set the prisoner on a five-legged stool, place a noose around his neck and make him guess letters in a word. With every incorrect guess, the Hangman would chop a leg off the stool. 

The prisoner had five guesses before his death. If the prisoner guessed all the letters in the word, he would go free. However, most prisoners were illiterate, and this game would merely mock them.

The origin of Hangman is a dark story, and nothing like the fun Hangman game children know it to be today. 

2. Hangman may be considered offensive by some. 

Some people consider the hanging man a symbol of violence. They believe children should not encounter violent images at such a young age. Drawings of gallows and a line drawn through a man’s neck do not appeal to some as it is considered intense. 

As a result, some teachers that use this game in schools were reprimanded and asked to change the game or change the Hangman figure into something more suitable for young students. 

Moreover, there are still a few countries in the world that use hanging as capital punishment. Drawing an image of capital punishment is inappropriate in such countries. 

3. There are many decent substitutes for Hangman.

Kids can play Spaceman. This concept is the same as Hangman. The only difference is with every incorrect guess, the person initiating the game will draw a part of a spaceship. The spaceship figure utilizes circles, semi-circles, and ovals. 

Another alternative would be the mouse and cheese game. In this game, a player sets up a secret word. With every incorrect guess, the mouse progresses along a staircase toward a piece of cheese. The staircase depicts the number of guesses a player has, and each incorrectly guessed letter is written on each stair by the player initiating the game. When the mouse reaches the cheese, the game is over. 

Like in Hangman, a player wins in both these games when all letters are correctly guessed by the others, leaving the drawing incomplete. You can also come up with your own game by replacing the Hangman figure with another easy-to-draw object. How creative can you get?

4. Hangman inspired Wheel of Fortune.

In 1975, Merv Griffin came up with a concept for an American game show, Wheel of Fortune. This competitive game sees contestants solve word puzzles similar to that of Hangman. Contestants win cash or prizes based on spinning a giant wheel. 

Merv Griffin’s childhood memories of playing Hangman with his sister on long road trips led to the production of “Wheel of Fortune.” 

5. Hangman inspired a show in Brazil.

‘Roda a Roda’ is a Brazilian game show based on Hangman. Like Wheel of Fortune, this game incorporates a giant wheel that contestants spin to see how much money they can accumulate by guessing letters in a secret word or guessing the word itself. 

6. BBC introduced Letterbox, a game show derived from Hangman. 

In 2017, BBC introduced Letterbox as a game show. In this game, four pairs take part in guessing letters in a password. The game will reduce the pairs down to one winner. Most contestants who win are likely to walk away with cash prizes. It’s a great family show, and the audience is kept entertained by playing along.

7. Hangman is one of the first word games that many kids learn.

Hangman or the concept of Hangman is pretty simple and straightforward to explain to kids – guess letters to complete a secret word. 

Guessing games are fun and entertaining. Learning letters of the alphabet is the foundation of learning, so it’s no wonder that this is one of the initial word games children play. 

boy raising hand with his classmates behind
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8. Hangman is an everyday activity used in teaching English as a foreign language.

Given the many benefits of playing Hangman (or similar games), it comes as no surprise that this is a top activity used to teach English as a foreign language. Expanding your vocabulary, enhancing your focus, and improving your spelling are just a few of the benefits this game provides to students. 

9. One or more players can play Hangman.

Initially, Hangman started as a two-player game. One person creates a secret word, and the other tries to figure out that word. The rise in technology and mobile applications has allowed even just a single player to guess a computer-generated word. 

A great way to play is to have one person set the secret word and have many others take turns trying to get it. Like most games, the more, the merrier, right?

10. In 1978, Alan Miller developed a video game of Hangman.

Atari, Inc. converted the pen-and-paper-based version of Hangman into a video game in 1978. This game comprised four difficulty levels. It was developed as a single or two-player game and also had a timed mode. 

Alan Miller programmed the game. He later went on to cofound Activision, a prominent video game publisher.  

11. There are hundreds of Hangman apps available today.

Have you tried searching for Hangman on your mobile device? There are hundreds of Hangman apps out there, and free versions are abundant out there too. Some developers designed the apps to help you learn, providing definitions of words within the app, but all Hangman apps will keep you entertained.

12. Practicing Hangman can improve your vocabulary. 

Word-based games are a great way to improve your vocabulary. Some Hangman apps enhance your language by containing definitions of the words you guess. Apps may also incorporate various categories so you can improve your vocabulary within that specific category.

13. There are strategies to help increase your odds of winning.

It is a common strategy for people to start by guessing vowels. There are also letters used more frequently in the English language (such as t, n, s, h, r, d, and l), and people may consider guessing these first. 

If this game is part of a learning process, words that your teacher has repeated are most likely the words to expect. Beware, as there are words that follow no strategy!

14. People consider specific words challenging to guess in Hangman.

Consider a three-letter word or even a four-letter word that only uses three alphabets like “miss” or “ball.” There are only three correct guesses, giving players a 23/26 chance of guessing it correctly. 

Furthermore, it can be tricky when you’re dealing with words containing rare letters. Words such as “fizz,” “buzz,” and “quiz” fall into this category.

15. ‘Jazz’ might be the most complex word to guess. 

Jazz festival lettering
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When mathematician Jon Mcloone was questioned by his daughter about the most challenging word in Hangman, he set out to perform calculations. He created a computer game to simulate how real players might guess. 

Mcloone factored in common guesses that the average person would predict, like vowels and standard letters. He also inputted words from his ninety-thousand-word dictionary. He discovered that “Jazz” was the most challenging word to guess, even when allowing the computer up to 13 guesses!

16. We can use a variation of Hangman to make solving equations more fun.

Instead of using words to play this game, a variation exists where people use numbers and symbols such as the “plus,” “minus,” “multiply,” and “divide” signs. Numbers guessed range from 0 to 9. As players make correct guesses, they perform calculations to determine the right answer. 

Playing the game in this way makes mathematics more fun and encourages solving equations mentally.

Final Word

Hangman has inspired game shows, received criticism for being violent, and became modernized to appeal to various people. The fact remains that the essence of this word-guessing remains popular today.

JC Franco
Editor

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.