What it is: A talking, guessing game for four players

Best for: Teens to adults

What you need:

How to play: You play password with two teams of two. There’s one word (the password) that one player on each team knows, and both are trying to get their teammate to guess the word first by taking turns giving one-word clues.

Here’s how it works.

Let’s say our players are Ben and Brooke (on one team) and Dan and Donna (on the other team).

Each team chooses one player to go first. We’ll say Ben and Dan. Using a word generator or paper slips or cards with words written on them, one word is chosen, the word that will be the password for both of them. We’ll say it’s “key.”

Ben and Dan both know the password, while it’s kept secret from Brooke and Donna.

Once Ben and Dan both know the password, the game can start. One of them will go first, say Ben. He gets a chance to get his teammate Brooke to guess the password. The trick is, Ben can only give a one-word clue. He might say “lock.” With her one-word clue, Brooke thinks and makes a one-word guess as to what the password might be. She might say, “door?” Because she guesses incorrectly, it’s now Dan and Donna’s turn.

Dan can now give Donna a one-word clue. He might say “metal.” Now Donna has the benefit of knowing Dan’s clue (metal) as well as Ben’s (lock). But she might still guess incorrectly and say, “safe?”

Now it’s Ben’s turn again. He thinks hard and gives the clue “unlock.” It’s Brooke’s turn to guess, and now she has three clues to work with: lock, metal, and unlock. That might be enough for her to correctly guess, “key?”

Play goes back and forth between the two teams, as many turns as it takes, until someone guesses the password. Once someone correctly guesses the password, the round is over, that team gets a point, and you start another round. Switch roles first, so Brooke and Donna are giving the clues and Ben and Dan are guessing. Every two rounds, switch which team goes first.

That’s the basic gameplay! It’s simple and might even seem boring, but it can actually get really funny. You might have seen the game played on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

The game is also a fun test as to how well two players know each other. The more you know about your partner and the way they think, the better chance you have of figuring out their clues. For example, once when my husband and I were playing, the password was stomp. The other team had given the clue foot, and it was my turn to give my husband a clue. Our three-year-old daughter was going through a very stubborn phase where she was apt to throw mini tantrums, so I only had to say Annelise for my husband to know exactly what I was talking about. 🙂

As for what words to use, the word lists for catchphrase, either easy or medium, might work well. My online or app form word generator is a great resource. Multi-meaning words like organ and wave are always interesting, because the clue-givers can say any one-word clue they want, even if they use a different definition of the password that has previously been used. The same goes for words like coach or bruise that can be either verbs or nouns.

Rules: Like in catchphrase, rhyming words are not allowed as clues. So, for example, if the password were sassy and someone, after a few rounds, tried to use the word Lassie as a clue, that would be against the rules, because sassy and Lassie have no relation except for the fact that they rhyme (well, unless you have a pet dog named Lassie with some serious sass). The same goes for using clue words simply because they have the same first letter as the password.

Variations: The game is similar to catchphrase.


  1. Ooops Game Gal! I think the game is best played when “inside information” is disallowed. So, your example of using your daughter’s name to reference what’s been going on in your home is unfair to the other team. The way I’ve always played (for fifty years now! I can hardly believe it!) is that all clues must be referring to things that are common knowledge to all in the game. e.g. I live in Hawaii, so we can use “Hawaii” references if all players are Hawaii people, since we all share that understanding, but to use a clue that references a thing that happened with my partner and I while on our honeymoon, wouldn’t be fair. What do you think?

    1. Thanks Tracy, that’s a great clarification, especially if you want the game to be a test of word association more than how well two people know each other. I can see how a clue that only two players would understand wouldn’t seem fair, because to the other team, the clue isn’t helpful at all, and part of the fun is being able to use your partner’s clues AND the other team’s.
      I do have some questions. When my husband and I were playing and we mentioned my daughter, we were playing with close family members. Everyone knew her name and personality. They may not have seen her stomp quite as much as my husband and I, but what’s the rule for declaring if something is inside information or not? What if players assume all players are familiar with something that they in fact aren’t? Is it difficult when you’re playing with people (on your team or on the other) you don’t know well (since you might not be familiar with what they know or don’t know)? For example, would names of historical people or movie stars be against the rules, since all players might not be equally familiar with them? Have disputes ever arisen? I would love to hear from your experience!

  2. I’ve been looking around for word sites to recommend. We played password with friends on zoom last night. A great quarantine game so long as both ends have access to word lists. Thanks. Don

  3. We played last night and had a disagreement about allowable clues. One team used rhyming words as clues and others thought that wasn’t permitted. Here are the two examples. We need you to make a ruling! LOL First example, the word was Jiggle. A few clues were given and then they said “wiggle…” Second example, the word was Severe. A few clues were given and then they said “revere…”

    1. Ah, good question! I would say the rules for password would be the same for catchphrase, where rhyming words are against the rules, as are words that begin with the same first letter (like using the word “January” as a clue for jiggle and emphasizing the J sound). So, to the people who used “wiggle” and “revere,” I would say sorry, that’s against the rules! (Though I could see “wiggle” being a little problematic because I think someone might be able to argue that wiggle and jiggle kind of mean the same thing or are at least related…so that one’s a little trickier. Severe/revere, though, that one’s clearly against the rules.) Thanks for asking! I’ll clarify that in the post!

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