Hard Hangman Words and Why They're Difficult to Guess

hard hangman game

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Hangman isn’t an inherently difficult game. The premise is simple, and finding the words (and saving a fictional life) is fun. There are, however, certain ways to make hangman more challenging. One of those methods is to use difficult hangman words. If you want to stump your friends, children or students with some perplexing puzzles, any of these hard hangman words can help with that.
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The Proven Hardest Hangman Words

What makes a word a hard hangman word? There are a number of factors, and we need to turn to one of our good friends, math, to figure out what they are. 

John McLoone, a mathematician, used a series of algorithms to determine the hardest hangman words. What he discovered was shorter words are more difficult, because the player has a greater chance of missing the correct letters. 

As you might have guessed, the difficulty in solving a hangman game depends on what rules you use. You can limit how many attempts the player has, for instance. And, you can pick the word length. For these words, we’ll assume you are playing with a typical number of attempts, between eight and 10.

The Best Short Words for Hangman

If you’re looking for the most brutal words that are also the shortest, these hard hangman words will be the most useful to you. 

  • Jazz: Mathematically speaking, “jazz” is the single most difficult word to guess in a regular game of hangman. With “jazz,” players have a 23/26 chance of picking the wrong letters. And two of the correct letters, J and Z, are not common.

  • Buzz: This is a similar case to “jazz.” It uses the uncommon Z and has only three unique letters. Actually, finding short words that have duplicate letters is the essential factor in picking the most difficult hangman words. 

  • Hajj: This one might be a bit unfair, considering it’s an uncommon word for most English speakers. The “hajj” is a pilgrimage to Mecca that every Muslim needs to make at least once in their lifetime. For hangman, the word has similar characteristics to the previous words. It has only three letters, words that end in J are rare.

  • Jinx: This hangman word isn’t technically as difficult as the ones before it, but it’s by no means a breeze. There are four different letters in “jinx” rather than three, but it does have two uncommon letters rather than one. People also rarely think of J and X as going together, which adds to the challenge.

  • Puff: “Puff” is probably the easiest of these hard hangman words, so if you want to dial back the intensity a bit, it’s a good option. It’s similar in construction to “buzz” and “hajj,” but the letters are more common. That leaves its limited number of letters as the primary source of difficulty.

Difficult Hangman Words That Are Longer

Perhaps you aren’t looking to use four-letter words for every game. But, you still don’t want to breeze through them as you play hangman online. These longer hangman words, many of which John McLoone also discovered, are what you want. 

They follow the same patterns as the words above, so some of them can be almost as hard to solve as the shorter options. Fortunately, their additional letters give the players more chances to win.

  • Jazzed: “Jazzed” is basically the same case as “jazz.” The only difference is the additional letters, which are also more common. 

  • Buzzed: This one is nearly the same as “jazzed.” It’s only the use of the more common B that makes the word a bit less challenging.

  • Jazzing: “Jazzing” is the next step up from “jazzed.” It has the same root word but with three additional common letters rather than two.

  • Buzzing: Again, this word follows the same pattern as “jazzing.” The root word is “buzz” and it has more letters.

  • Avenue: Vowel-heavy words can throw people off. This is important when they have limited turns, as they probably won’t want to waste the majority of their attempts guessing the vowels.

  • Awkward: What makes “awkward” an awkward word in hangman is the repetition of letters. It’s a seven-letter word, but it only has five different letters, which increases the player's chances of not finding all of its letters in time.

  • Beekeeper: As the person in charge of the hangman game, this can be a “high risk, high reward” choice. “Beekeeper” is nine letters long, but more than half of those letters are repeats of E. If the player doesn’t select E, their chances of winning dwindle. If they do pick it, a good player will probably figure the word out.

  • Nightclub: Here’s a word that’s challenging thanks to all of the unique letters. There are no repeat letters in “nightclub,” a nine-letter word. If you’re playing with a normal number of attempts, usually 10 to 13 turns, the players can’t make many mistakes.

  • Pneumonia: “Pneumonia” is a mix of challenges. It’s a longer word, it has a lot of vowels and it only repeats one letter. Plus, it’s not exactly an everyday use type of word, so it might not easily come to a player’s mind.

  • Wyverns: This word throws a lot of difficulty at the player. It has seven unique letters, the less-common W and V, and it uses a Y as a vowel. Plus, that Y isn’t at the end of the word, which is the most common position for it. 

Hard Hangman Phrases to Up the Difficulty

There’s one more popular way to make hangman more difficult: use phrases. Hard hangman phrases can leave the player with a batch of blank spaces and not much room for error. If they think they’re up to the task, though, we’ve created some phrases that will test how ready they really are.

All of these hard hangman phrases are difficult to solve for several reasons. Many of the words use the same spelling patterns that make the single words challenging. They also have a minimal number of repeating letters.

  • A quiet jinx sulks.

  • Twelve foxes hunt.

  • Wimpy geek panics.

  • Jiujitsu masters train.

  • Absurd wizard mystifies.

  • Jazz singer drops beats.

  • Throwing gnarly punches.

  • Croquet players fix games.

  • Awkward klutzy numbskull.

  • Buzzing around the beekeeper.

Playing Hangman With Long-Distance Friends

Now that you know the hard hangman words and phrases that will test everyone’s skills, you need to actually play some hangman. This might be a problem if you don’t have anyone nearby to play with, though. If you have that problem, we can offer a solution. Our guide for how to play hangman with friends anywhere will explain everything you need to do to enjoy an online hangman hangout.


Zac Pricener has been a content creator for the past eight years. He’s a bit of an all-around nerd, and he has a bad habit of working movie and TV show references into conversations whenever possible.

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