In Codenames, can you give a clue when the series of letters of one of the tiles on the table is contained within it?

For example, can you give the clue "barrier" when "bar" is on the table? Or "bandolier" and "band"?

To be clear, I'm not asking about cases where the words are clearly etymologically linked. Like "fire" and "firefighter" or "link" and "linkage". The confusion arises in cases where the words aren't clearly related, but one still entirely contains the other in an unrelated way.

2 Answers 2


Yes, you can.

While certain questions like this will be up to each play group to decide; this one is actually directly addressed in the rules.

At the bottom of page 6:

England and island were originally compound words, but in this century, island is a valid clue for ENGLAND. Even land is a valid clue for ENGLAND. And anybody who says you can't say sparrow when ROW is on the table is just trying to cause trouble.

  • Note: It says "Land" is valid for "England", and that "Shoe" is illegal for "Horseshoe". The difference is that "Horse" is a work, and "Eng" isn't.
    – ikegami
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 22:59
  • 2
    @ikegami Assuming you mean "word"; I feel like that's not completely accurate; even if "Eng" happened to be a word, it wouldn't make "land" invalid unless the word "England" were considered to be a compound of the words "Eng" and "Land". As a silly example, "ring" would still be a valid clue if "tasering" were on the board, even though both "tase" and "ring" are real words.
    – GendoIkari
    Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 4:18
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    ...but it's still illegal to use ring for tasering because it's a clue about the word rather than the thing. I just kept my earlier comment simple but true.
    – ikegami
    Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 4:41
  • 3
    ...but you could use "ring" as a hint for "circle" even if "tasering" was on the board. Luckily, there's usually the possibility of negotiating stuff like this with your opposite spymaster, since it's a social game after all.
    – ilkkachu
    Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 10:07
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    Right my only point was nitpicking the idea that "Eng" not being a word is what makes "England" different than "Horseshoe". Tasering was an example of a word that happens to be formed by 2 words being added together; but it is not a compound word of those 2 words.
    – GendoIkari
    Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 14:21

The examples you give are not good examples, because they are, in fact, etymologically related. As GendoIkari says, the rules cite "sparrow" and "row" as an example of two unrelated words. The rules say that "row" being on the table does not bar "sparrow" from being used. However, given that the rules say that clues must relate to the meaning, rather than letters of a word, the fact that "sparrow" and "row" are unrelated means that "sparrow" can't be used as a clue for "row".

  • 1
    Are they actually etymologically related? I was thinking of "band" as in music FWIW. Even if so I'd never call someone at my table for mixing that up since it's non obvious I'd say. Though that is why I specifically said "clearly" related in my explanation. Commented Sep 7, 2020 at 0:26
  • @Rubiksmoose they are because band has multiple meanings, one of which being "a flat, thin strip or loop of material put around something" which defines a bandolier. As long as one of the meanings makes something against the rules it applies - but as the rules say it's up to the opposing spymaster to object to it.
    – Andrew
    Commented Jan 29 at 16:11

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