I want to automatically create a list of words for Charades (in German or English), where one person has to describe, draw or show by pantomime a certain word to the others. Humans can intuitively choose words that are neither too easy nor too difficult, that are possible to characterize with the chosen method (especially pantomime is really hard for some words) and that are not boring. However I need help to (1) to define those criteria formally so that I can implement it in a program and (2) to find lexical databases or word lists with all the necessary attributes. The following are my ideas so far.


Characterization possibility

  • I assume: Some POS tags are better than others. Verbs are good for pantomime. Nouns are good in general. Concrete things are easier than abstract concepts. Words like "of", "and" and "from" are hard.


  • assume difficulty is correlated to popularity
  • approximate popularity as: occurrence rank in a corpus, number of links to Wikipedia article

Lexical Databases

  • Wikipedia article/DBpedia resource name (does not provide any linguistic information but good category system and ontology)
  • WordNet has POS tags but no rank
  • http://corpora.uni-leipzig.de has corpora with has rank but no POS tags
  • 3
    I don't understand how this is a question about linguistics.
    – user6726
    Oct 26, 2015 at 17:25
  • I agree. But when you've figured out which ones you need, this community might help with the implementation (just maybe edit your question). Oct 27, 2015 at 0:08

1 Answer 1


Despite the comments, this is actually a very interesting applied question that linguistics should be concerned with. It has to do with both syntax and semantics but also paralinguistic isues such as gesture.

The answer to your question is that there's no easy way to generate such a list in a way that would replicate a human's instinct for what is easy to represent gesturally. However, you could make certain assumptions about length, frequency and abstractness. You will also want to exclude all function words and words that can be used as auxilliary. As to frequency, you'd probably want to avoid the 500 most frequent words and not venture much past words ranked about 10,000. You would also want to explore the position of the word in WordNet's synset.

There are several lexical databases that may be helpful for this but you will ultimately have to combine them for best results.

  • WordNet is one place to go for semantic connections but even better might be FrameNet which has information about semantic frames which will give you an idea about concreteness

  • The MRC Psycholinguistic Database has information about frequency and abstractness (but the frequency data is very out of date)

  • The English Lexicon Project has more uptodate data on frequency and other useful characteristics

  • WordFrequency.info has very good data on word frequency and parts of speech (some free some paid).

I think there is a great research project hiding in this.

  • Thanks! I didn't know there is an abstractness database. I think outdatedness is not a problem as long as it's not older than the people who play it :-) Nov 5, 2015 at 10:26

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