Scrabble Word Lists, this week’s topic, are a natural follow-on to last week’s blog, Scrabble 1: In Defense of Friendly Scrabble. You will find a Scrabble word list to be a welcome adjunct to a casual social word game.
As before, we are not catering to the purist or the tournament competitor, but hoping to add enjoyment to a social activity, in this case for two to four players.
There are several good things about a Scrabble word list. For one thing, it helps level the playing field. A player who sneaks off and slavishly memorizes all the two- and three-letter words no longer has an advantage over his opponent, when both of them can pick up lists of those very words. And for a sociable and friendly game, we should applaud anything that discourages “snaking” (excessive study, an ancient Caltech term)!
Another benefit of a Scrabble word list is that it moves the game along. There are no long silences while a player racks his brain to recall whether QWERTY is an allowed word (yep), and whether ZEN is lower case, making it acceptable (nope). The Scrabble word list gives an immediate answer to these vital questions (on which the Future of the Free World depends), so the player can concentrate instead on what to play and where to play it.
The Scrabble 1 blog commented on the benefits of using a dictionary with definitions such as the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary (OSPD) rather than a comprehensive Scrabble word list such as SOWPODS. As such, the Big News for casual Scrabble players in 2014 was the publication of the Fifth Edition of OSPD.
The Fifth Edition updates a useful reference for the first time since 2005. 5,000 vital and up-to-date terms have been added as legal words, including such essentials of modern life as SELFIE, MOJITO and HASHTAG. What will mystify non-players but delights players is that there are also four new two-letter words: DA (“dad”), GI (“a martial arts garment”), PO (“a chamber pot”) and TE (“ti, the seventh note of the musical scale”). These additions enlarge the opportunities to “hook” a new word onto a word already on the board.
The Fourth Edition of OSPD has been around for long enough that people have compiled a number of useful word lists, but so far these have not been updated to the Fifth Edition. For your consideration and possible use I have updated some of these: they are listed and linked below, for use in compiling your own Scrabble word list for friendly play. (Since my lists are based on OSPD, they are not useful for tournament players, because they omit “dirty words” and other words that did not pass the scrutiny of the OSPD editors.)
Here are the practical results of my research into the 5th Edition Scrabble Dictionary. (For those who wish to understand the parameters of my experiment, you’ll find them in the Appendix at the bottom of this post.) Note added 5/29/2015: the links below have been updated to the newest links in the Scrabble 2015 blog.
Scrabble Word List 1 – Useful Words
The OSPD editors have not left players completely without resources. The first Scrabble word list I am providing is a page in the OSPD Fifth Edition, reformatted to U.S. letter size format: A List of Useful Words (note: corrected!). It contains letter values, Q words not followed by U (62 of these), and words with no AEIOU vowels (136 of these).
Scrabble Word List 2 – J, Q, X, Z Words
My second Scrabble word list is a modification of a list in OSPD. That Dictionary presents a single list of two- to six-letter words containing J, Q, X or Z. However, it is in a cumbersome format. The player who has an X in his rack only cares about the “X” words, and having to search through the longer list for the words that are relevant is wasted effort.
Scrabble Word List 3 – 3 Letter Words
The third Scrabble Word list is a single page: all the Three Letter Words. Note added 5/4/15: This version is revision 4, incorporating additional corrections from Marty Corey – many thanks!
Scrabble Word List 4 – 2 Letters to Make 3 Letters
The fourth Scrabble word list is a very useful one: it’s a list of two-letter “hangs,” that is, all the single letters that can be added to the beginning or the end of a two-letter word to create a valid three-letter word. I call this list the Two to Make Three List.
This list is easy to use: if there’s a promising two-letter word on the board on which you might hang a word, such as EF, you look at the entry for EF. In front of EF you see the letters d-k-r, indicating that DEF, KEF and REF are valid words; thus you may be able to play a word that has a D, K or R that can add on to EF. Similarly, following EF you see f-s-t, meaning that EFF, EFS and EFT are also good words.
This list contains bad news as well as assistance: for example, the information that there is no single letter you can hang onto the word XU, and that there’s a whole passel of two-letter words that have no add-ons to their front or their back ends.
Scrabble Word List 5 – Double Difficult Letters
Sometimes you are unfortunately stuck with multiples of difficult letters, such as two “C”s. It’s helpful to have a prompt sheet that tells you how to unload multiple bad letters all at once. If you are stuck with the letters CC, HH, II, KK, UU, VV, WW or YY, you will find THIS LIST to be a great helpmate.
This page contains a bonus: a list of all the 7- and 8-letter words ending in –UOUS. There are not very many of them, but when you can play one you can unload two U’s at once and probably score a lot of points as well!
Scrabble Word List 6 – Many Vowels
The last of the lists presented here is a Scrabble word list of Words with Many Vowels. What do I mean by Many Vowels? I follow the choice established by Hasbro when, long ago, they posted such a list that no longer exists on their website: all the words of two and three letters that are all AEIOU vowels; plus all the longer words having more than 66% AEIOU content. I call this list Words with Many Vowels.
Art and Nola as Super Scrabble Addicts
Among our regular diversions, Nola and I enjoy frequent games of Scrabble. Rather than the standard game, we usually play Super Scrabble, which has a larger board (21 by 21 squares) and twice as many (200) tiles. The larger game requires roughly two hours to play, rather than the one hour of the standard game.
We find Super Scrabble to be more fun, perhaps because there are many more places to play long words. In fact, we like this game so much that we provide both regular Scrabble and Super Scrabble in our Maui condo and in Nola’s Southampton, NY family home, in addition to Grosse Pointe. Naturally, a home-crafted portable version of Super Scrabble travels in our carry-on luggage. Call us crazy if you must – OK, I heard you! – but as retirees, we have time for many hobbies, and this is merely one of them. Remind me sometime to tell you about the merits of wooden jigsaw puzzles…
A Scrabble word list can add to the fun of a favorite game. I welcome your comments on the value of these lists, and other lists you have found.
Scrabble is a trademark of Hasbro, Inc. in the U.S. and Canada, and of Mattel in the rest of the world
Appendix: Experimental Technique for Scrabble Word List Generation
In my previous posts I have provided a number of links to articles about scientific research. I provide links both to original research papers and to news articles. The former sometimes require careful study to understand them; the latter are often more intelligible, both to nonscientists and to scientists in any other specialty.
In any case, if you have looked at the original research articles, you will see that the authors often describe their experimental process in detail, sometimes even providing an on-line supplement with even more detail. This Appendix is my version of the experimental process description and will not interest you unless you are detail-oriented by nature, or simply curious about anything and everything.
Scrabble Word List 1 – Useful Words: For this list, I simply scanned the page provided in the OSPD Fifth Edition to produce a PDF. Then used an optical character recognition (OCF) program – I used PDF OCR X, an app for Mac – which produces a .txt text file. Even at the highest resolution of my scanner, I found it necessary to proof-read the text output to correct errors. I then opened the text file with Microsoft Excel to create a spreadsheet, which I then reformatted to better fit a standard US letter page.
Scrabble Word List 2 – J, Q, X, Z Words: To create this list I used the scanner, OCR app and manual proofreading to generate an Excel file for each page of the printed list. I transferred the words to a separate workbook. I used Excel Text formulas to separate the words into characters, then tested the characters for the presence of J, Q, X and Z. This allowed me to create separate columns with those words, which could be copied “values only” and sorted to generate compact separate word lists. Each of these was then formatted to fit on a single letter page.
Scrabble Word List 3 – 3 Letter Words: To compile this list, I took all the three-letter words in the comprehensive list known as SOWPODS; then checked the doubtful words in the new OSPD and deleted those that did not appear. While doing so, I found seven three-letter words in the new OSPD that do not appear in SOWPODS: FOO, LUN, MMM, NAV, ORG, RYU, TIZ. Since these exist, there may be yet other three-letter words in Fifth Edition OSPD that I have missed, so I look forward to being corrected by someone more obsessive and compulsive than I am. (I’m sure you’re out there…)
Scrabble Word List 4 – 2 Letters to Make 3 Letters: I compiled this list by studying the three-letter word list and using it to update and correct an old “hangs” list I had from the 4th Edition OSPD. As noted above, since I did not study every entry in the 5th Edition OSPD, the three-letter word list may not be complete. If List 3 needs some words added to it, then List 4 will need a corresponding group of additions.
Scrabble Word List 5 – Double Difficult Letters: I started with the SOWPODS complete word list, which contains 267,751 words. I sorted its words by length and transferred them to separate workbooks, each for a word of a particular length. In each workbook I used Excel Text formulas to separate the words into characters and test each character for the presence of C, H, I, K, U, V, W and Y. Words having two or more of the same difficult letter were detected by the formulas and written into separate columns for each letter pair. Each of those was copied “values only” to another column, then sorted to compress the list.
I then compiled a total alphabetized list of all the “double difficult letter” words for manual checking against the 5th Edition OSPD. The checking process accidentally encountered three words present in the 5th Edition but not in SOWPODS: SHHH, TOUPIE and WIKI. Thus there may be additional “double difficult letter” words in the 5th Edition that I have not yet found. After correcting the list to only include words in the OSPD I then re-separated the lists to create separate lists for each difficult pair of letters, sorted by word length. These lists were used to construct List 5 as I presented it to you.
A similar search, this time on the total SOWPODS list, extracted all words containing the letter sequence UOUS. Because of the quarter-million rows in the spreadsheet, it takes my MacBook Pro about 10 minutes to process the text formulas that I added on every line. This search found 182 –UOUS words of lengths from 7 letters on up. Since the 7- and 8-letter words are those most likely to be played due to the mechanics of the game, I extracted those 18 words and verified them against OSPD. This led to eliminating VIDUOUS, FEATUOUS, FLATUOUS and VERTUOUS. The remaining 14 words are the same ones that appeared on my previous –UOUS list based on the 4th Edition Dictionary.
Scrabble Word List 6 – Many Vowels: The approach to List 6 followed the pattern for List 5. In fact, I used the List 5 multiple workbooks and added columns that would count the AEIOU content and determine which words meet the two-thirds threshold. Those words were extracted and incorporated into the alphabetical list used for manual verification against the 5th Edition OSPD. The total verification list, with elements for both List 5 and List 6, had 2,950 words. After eliminating those not in OSPD, the list shrank to 1,954, which was then augmented by the addition of SHHH, TOUPIE and WIKI. The cleaned list was then subdivided again to extract the words finally appearing in List 5 and List 6.