Hangman is a guessing game.

The word to guess is represented by a row of dashes representing each letter of the word. Rules may permit or forbid proper nouns, such as names, places, brands, or slang. If the guessing player suggests a letter which occurs in the word, it will be written in all its correct positions. If the suggested letter does not occur in the word, the computer removes (or alternatively, adds) one element of a hanged stick figure as a tally mark. Generally, the game ends once the word is guessed, or if the stick figure is complete — signifying that all guesses have been used.

The player guessing the word may, at any time, attempt to guess the whole word. If the word is correct, the game is over and the guesser wins. Otherwise, the computer may choose to penalize the guesser by adding an element to the diagram. On the other hand, if the guesser makes enough incorrect guesses to allow the diagram be completed, the guesser loses. However, the guesser can also win by guessing all the letters that appear in the word, thereby completing the word, before the diagram is completed.