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Call My Bluff

Like many EFL activities, this game is based on a popular TV/radio game show in which teams guess the meaning of obscure words from three possible meanings.

The beauty of this game, from an English teaching perspective, is that it helps students to pay close attention to unknown words, noticing affixes and also the root of the word. If students were presented with disestablishmentarianism for example, the prefix dis- and suffixes -ment, -arian and -ism, all provide clues to the meaning of this word. In writing their own clues, it also practises dictionary skills.

call my bluff
Call my bluff is Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.


1: Divide the class into teams and provide each team with a different set of obscure words.

2: Students should find the definitions for their words and write them.

3: Each team should invent another two definitions for each of their words.

4: When the teams have their definitions, the game can start by one team reading a word and their three definitions. The other teams discuss the options and choose the correct answer.

5: Once all teams have guessed, the correct answer can be revealed and correct teams given a point. Another team now read their word and definitions. After all the words have been read out, the team with the most points win.

S1: Penultimate. Is it a) the best thing to write with, b) the one before last, c) a very talented writer
S2: Hmm, well it has pen and ultimate but a) seems silly so I will go with c).


1: Instead of giving the students a list of words, allow them to find their own new words in the dictionary.

2: You could also use this game to highlight the polysemy of words in English. In this case you could allow students to find two or three correct meanings of the same word. Then have students add two more incorrect meanings. The guessing team should guess which meanings are incorrect. For example:


a) the outer layer of a tree

b) what you do when you have finished driving your car

c) when a dog makes a loud noise

d) a building on a farm

Example Language:


Phrasal verbs

Most obscure or advanced vocabulary

Cognates and false friends

Affixed (prefixed/suffixed) vocabulary

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photo credit: biphop Stencil [Lyon, France] via photopin (license)

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