Taboo Game Rules: How to Play Taboo

Taboo is a game of unspeakable fun. It’s super easy yet compels you to constantly think on your feet. 

In contrast with classic guessing games like Pictionary or Charades, Taboo game rules don’t allow any kind of hand gestures or penning down the clues. 

If you are someone who is always intrigued by wordplay, go through our complete guide to Taboo. We cover the A-Z of Taboo, the gameplay, the special rules for clues, scoring and more.

What is Taboo?

Taboo Board Game Info image

Taboo is a timed guessing game entertaining our family game nights for decades. Think of the challenge in describing Scrunchie when you can’t say Girls, Hair, Elastic, Band, or Fabric!

The aim – Figure out a way of delivering the clues to your team without accidentally stepping on the taboo words. The opponent is ready to buzz the moment you utter a banned word. 

Remember, you are racing against a timer. So, be nifty, be quick.

The team with a record of maximum correct guesses sweeps the board. 

Number of Players: 4 or more

Ages: 13+

Length: 15 – 20 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Similar to: Charades, Guesstures, Hedbanz, Pictionary, Speak Out

Main Objective: It’s actually very simple – guess the maximum number of words correctly to score the winning point. 

Why We Love It: Hours of pure family fun is assured with Taboo. It tests your communication and quick-thinking skills, boosts your vocabulary. Plus, the timer lends the thrill of finishing a task with a ticking-clock at your side. 

Taboo Game Components

We recommend you check out the Taboo Party Board Game kit by Hasbro Gaming to start playing this excellent party staple. 

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Taboo Party Board Game With Buzzer
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The following items will be included when you unbox:

  • 450 Taboo game cards
  • 1 buzzer
  • 1 sand timer
  • Taboo game rules and instruction sheet

The older editions of Taboo used to come with an easel-like cardholder and a score pad. If you absolutely need that old-school vibe, go for the 2011 edition of Taboo. The card content of this version is more suitable for adults. 

Taboo - 2011 edition
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For a virtual experience, you may as well head here to play Taboo online. 

Taboo Game Setup

Take out all the items from the box and lay them on the gaming area within everyone’s reach. 

Put batteries in the buzzer to turn it on. 

Fill the cardholder with the game cards. 

Split the players into two teams – A and B. Each team then selects one player to be their first clue-giver. 

The sitting arrangement should be something like this:

  • When team A is playing, their players cannot see the cards. Only the giver will sit facing the easel.
  • Team B will control the buzzer and keep an eye on the cards played by the clue-giver of team A. 
Taboo game rules playing image

Taboo Game Rules and Gameplay

Taking Turns

Teams take turns back and forth until every player of both teams had a chance to play the clue-giver. 

Flip the cards when you are done playing one side of all the cards. 


As the game begins, the clue-giver of team A draws the top clue card and places it on the easel.

The clue-giver’s job is to describe the Guess Word at the top of the card using complete sentences, phrases or just words as hints. 

There is a list of five Taboo words below the Guess Word. It’s pretty clear that the clue-giver is not supposed to utter any of these words as they are taboo. 

As soon as the timer is on, the clue-giver starts giving hints and their teammates shout out the probable guesses. There is no limit to the number of guesses. 

The goal is to play as many cards as possible until time runs out. 

There is an option to pass on a difficult card and stack it on the discard pile. 

During this part, Team B’s role is to beep the buzzer if they catch the giver delivering any inappropriate word or gesture. 

Being buzzed means team A has to discard the failed card, and they will lose points. 

Related: 14 games like Taboo

Taboo Board Game Rules for Clues

  • Even any other form of taboo words are strictly forbidden to be used as clues. For example:
  • Abbreviations
  • Initials
  • Spelling
  • ‘Sounds like’ or ‘rhymes with’
  • Parts of a compound word 
  • Forms in different tenses
  • Hand gestures or sound effects are also a big no-no. 


When a clue is correctly guessed, that card stays in the easel. Count the number of cards successfully played by team A which is their score for that turn. 

Alternatively, team B bags the points whenever the opponent is buzzed, or they pass on a card. 

Winning the Game 

Once each player from both teams had their chance to be the clue-giver, points on the scorepad are tallied. 

The team with the highest score wins Taboo!

How to Play Taboo – Video Tutorial 

Frequently Asked Questions About Taboo

Can we play Taboo with less than four players?

The game is still playable with three, but as they say, the more, the merrier. You can set up your own rules for three players like each player takes their turn as clue-giver, while one player guesses and one player handles the buzzer. 

What is the standard of clues in Taboo? Can kids play?

The Guess Words in recent versions of Taboo are updated and millennial-friendly. There is nothing inappropriate for elementary kids, but they might find many words challenging to explain. With a little aid from the adults, kids too can take part in Taboo.

How long is the Taboo timer?

It’s a 60 second sand timer. 

Alternative Games You Might Like 

To spice up your Taboo experience, try Charades or Guesstures where the players have to physically act out the clues for their teams.

Alternatively, Pictionary digs out the hidden artist in you as you remain mute and try to picturise the clues on the paper. 

If you want to explore more games based on the same theme, read up our easy guide to Cranium Cadoo rules, and Hedbanz.

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