The Charming History of Truth or Dare

Truth or dare, a game most have played during school or college. It’s a source of fun and potential embarrassment, but have you ever wondered about its origins? The answer isn’t straightforward. It’s a complex history that remains largely unexplored.

A well-known game amongst kids and adults alike, Truth or Dare remains a classic to this day. Over the years, it has become a staple of parties and sleepovers worldwide. And for good reason!

Interestingly, this game has been around for centuries. Behind its fun and innocent facade, it carries a fascinating history. Let’s look at how the game has evolved over time and why it has become so popular for generations.

If you’re ready to dive into the fun of Truth or Dare, explore this comprehensive guide filled with tips, rules, and creative ideas for a lively and memorable game night.

The Origins of Truth or Dare

The history of Truth or Dare takes us back to its birthplace, England. Originally called “Questions and Commands”, this game was played by adults in the 16th century. Its purpose was to get people to confess their deepest secrets or perform outrageous tasks. 1

Questions and Commands

The earliest references to Questions and Commands appear in a 1677 French and English Dictionary by Guy Miege. Below is a loose translation of the earliest definition of this game: 1

“It’s a game that is called so, or one that presides over giving each of the company a certain number of questions to be met and commandments to which to be obeyed, for whatever reason they believe.”

Truth or Dare is often referred to as a ‘daring game’ among street games for children, called ‘Roi qui ne ment’ in France in as early as 1345. It was even seen played by the party at Camp Laurence in Little Women 1868! 2

Even back then, the game was a form of socialization and creating bonds with others. Players were given the choice to either answer a thought-provoking question or perform a daring task.

The Curious Art of British Lovemaking

Did you know that this game was used in England as a way to woo someone into a relationship? That’s right! In the 17th century, it was played as a way to flirt with someone you were interested in.

One of earliest dares ever was designed to make the 17th-century British bourgeois fall in love, stating: “A Lady was commanded to put her busk in a Gentlemans codpifs.” Translation? A woman was dared to put her corset into a man’s breeches. 3

Think extreme dares are a recent trend? Think again!

As the game continued to evolve, it even became a Christmas tradition among the Victorians. If players refuse to do the dare or tell a lie, they would have to pay a forfeit or have their face “smutted”, aka covered in soot. 4

Sounds harsh? Well, it was the Victorian era after all!

Truth or Dare as an evening pastime

In the 19th century, it was considered a common evening pastime and would even be featured in well-known English publications, such as The Spectator. People often used it as a way to pass the time at tedious parties or social gatherings. 5 6

Without technology to keep them entertained, games like Truth or Dare quickly became a popular way to break the ice and liven up any gathering. Even in conversations, people would play a round to delve into juicy details about each other. 6

“It is a great convenience to those who want wit to furnish out a conversation, that there is something or other in all companies where it is wanted substituted in its stead, which according to their taste, does the business as well. Of this nature is the agreeable pastime in country-halls of cross-purposes, questions and commands, and the like.”

An illustration from 1788 even features a party of affluent British men and women in their wigs and formal wear. One of the men is commanding another man to put his head underneath the petticoat (underskirt) of a female guest, and the room looks on and laughs. 7

Clearly, people from the 1700s were no different from college students today. The evolution of Truth or Dare continued well into the 19th century, where it took various forms and names in different countries.

A Twist to Truth and Dare

Sometime in the late 1700s or early 1800s, a book details what looks like a little different than what we think of modern-day Truth or Dare. For example, one page shows three monkeys in fancy British clothing. The caption reads:

Command,­–Take this.
Question,­–What’s this?

Three Monkeys tied to a log,
Two Puddings’-ends that won’t choke a Dog.
Nor a gaping, wide-mouthed waddling Frog.

It looks confusing, especially if you don’t know the rules. But this game is an interesting twist to the Simon Says game. It’s all about poetry and having a good memory, where players need to remember the silly commands and answers. 8

The Modern-day Truth or Dare

Fast forward to the 20th century, the game has taken on its modern form. It is seen in pop culture references, such as sitcoms, movies, and even music.

In music and film, Madonna chose the game as the name of one of her songs in her 1991 documentary Truth or Dare. 9 In the film, a group of women sing and dance to an era-inspired song with iconic lyrics:

“Truth or dare / Loving me is like playing with dynamite / But I’m the girl you just can’t get enough of.”

A movie with the same name was also released in 2018, featuring Lucy Hale and Tyler Posey as main characters who become involved in a sinister version of Truth or Dare. This horror film takes the game to a whole new level as players are hunted down by supernatural forces if they refuse to do their dares. 10

This element of ‘choose your own adventure’ still remains one of the main reasons behind its immense popularity among all age groups. As the game spread across the world, it started to take on different names like “dare, dare, double dare, kiss, truth, promise” in Australia or “truth dare, double dare, love, kiss or promise” in England. 11

Ready for a night of laughter and revelation? Explore this compilation of Truth or Dare questions, designed to bring fun and excitement to your social gatherings.

Play Truth or Dare online

Today, we’ve made the game easier for you! No more scribbling truth and dares on pieces of paper or trying to come up with challenges on the spot.

Our online Truth or Dare game features over 1,000 exciting questions and dares across various categories like ‘Classic’, ‘Extreme’, and even ‘Couples’, to spice up your game night.

Download our free “Truth or Dare” app now, or play directly on our website!

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  1. Miège, G. (1677). A new dictionary, french and english. United Kingdom: Thomas Basset. ↩︎ ↩︎

  2. Opie, I. A., Opie, P. (2008). Children’s Games in Street and Playground: Chasing, catching, seeking. United Kingdom: Floris Books. ↩︎

  3. Phillips, E. (1685). The Mysteries of Love&Eloquence; or the Arts of wooing and complementing, etc. The preface signed: E. P., i.e. Edward Phillips. United Kingdom: James Rawlins, for Obadiah Blagrave. ↩︎

  4. Brewer, E. C. (1895). Dictionary of Phrase and Fable: Giving the Derivation, Source, Or Origin of Common Phrases, Allusions, and Words that Have a Tale to Tell. United Kingdom: Cassell. ↩︎

  5. The First Number of The SPECTATOR". The Times. No. 13637. 5 July 1828. p. 4, column D. Archived from the original on 7 October 2018. Retrieved 7 October 2018. ↩︎

  6. The Spectator: Complete in One Volume [no. 1-635; Mar. 1, 1710/11-Dec. 20, 1714] With Notes and a General Index. (1828). United Kingdom: Jones and Company. ↩︎ ↩︎

  7. Humphrey, H. (1788). Questions & Commands: or The Mistaken Road to Hereford: A Sunday Evening’s Amusement. ↩︎

  8. The Gaping Wide-mouthed Waddling Frog: A New Game of Questions & Commands. (1817). United Kingdom: E. Wallis, and J. Wallis. ↩︎

  9. Truth or Dare. (1991). AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 22 June 2023. ↩︎

  10. Mendelson, S. (January 3, 2018). “Blumhouse Claims Ownership Over Lucy Hale’s ‘Truth Or Dare’” ↩︎

  11. Live Journal. (2014). History of Truth or Dare. Live Journal ↩︎

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