There’s not much like a classic game of Hangman. The centuries-old game (it was first mentioned in 1894) is played by two players: one thinks up a word and the other has to guess that word within ten attempts. But with all the words in our language, you immediately ask yourself: which word is actually the hardest to guess? That’s exactly the question the mathematician John McLoone wanted to answer after his daughter asked him that question in 2010. He started collecting data and after almost five million (!) games of Hangman, the scientist finally had the answer.
To find his answer, McLoone designed a computer game that could simulate how human players would guess in Hangman. For example, he assumed that people would often guess the vowels and common consonants such as R, S, and T. Rare letters like Q, Z, J and X are of course less often guessed, because the chances are rather small that these letters are in the chosen word.
McLoone grabbed a dictionary that counted no less than 90,000 words. And for each word he simulated 50 games of Hangman. From this he could deduce in what percentage of the cases someone would guess the word. After almost five million simulated games, the question that McLoone’s daughter had asked him was answered. There was one word that was guessed the least of all, and that can therefore be called the ‘most difficult Hangman word of all time’. Do you want to know what statistically is the most difficult word to guess in Hangman? Then read on on on the next page!