Online and downloadable word games aren’t complete without in-game dictionaries that check the veracity of submitted words. When playing a physical word game, on the other hand, it is recommended for the players to agree beforehand as to what dictionary to use in case the legality of words need to be checked. One of the most trusted and most used dictionaries is the Scrabble dictionary, which is the OSPD – Official Scrabble Players Dictionary. It is developed and managed by speakers of American and Canadian English.
The Birth of the Scrabble Dictionary
Although Scrabble was invented in 1938, it took 40 years before an official Scrabble dictionary was published. The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary came out in 1978 thanks to the joint effort of the National Scrabble Association or NSA and Merriam-Webster. The need for a dictionary came about because of NSA-approved clubs and tournaments. Before it was published, various other dictionaries were used including the Funk & Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary, the Shorter Oxford Dictionary, and the Chambers Dictionary. However, due to the inclusion of some foreign words, the exclusion of some common words, and an incomplete guide as to the formation of comparative terms, using those dictionaries progressively became problematic.
OSW and OSPD
The OSW or Official Scrabble Words and the OSPD are the two original dictionaries employed in tournaments around the world.
The Chambers Dictionary became known as the OSW and was an expanded version of the 1867 Chambers’ Etymological Dictionary. Its lexicon of words and inflections were used in Scrabble tournaments especially in the UK, New Zealand, and Australia. The OSW does not have the uncertainty of using plurals, conjugations, and inflections (numeric and gender-wise). Although it is no longer the official dictionary, Scrabble players do still use it from time to time. Also, it is still used mostly by British crossword players.
Competitive Scrabble in the US and Canada, on the other hand, preferred the OSPD. The OSPD consists of words from five dictionaries: the 8th edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, the Random House College Dictionary, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Funk and Wagnall’s Dictionary of the English Language, and Webster’s New World Dictionary. As long as a word is found in one of the five and fits under Scrabble rules, then it is an acceptable word to play in Scrabble. The compilation was first done by hand, resulting in several errors and emissions and 3 more editions have been released, the current being OSPD 4 published in 2005. The NSA recommends the OSPD for Scrabble games played in schools and at home.
The acronym SOWPODS is the resulting easy-to-pronounce anagram of combining OSW and OSPD. SOWPODS is a Scrabble word list that is a combination of the two original sources and is used in tournaments in most countries with the exception of Canada, Thailand, and the United States.
British and American words currently make up the SOWPODS. The British words come from two sources: the Collins Corpus and the Collins English Dictionary. On the other hand, the American words are derived from the TWL or the Official Tournament and Club Word List, whose basis is the Merriam-Webster Dictionary along with 4 other dictionaries.
Australia began using the SOWPODS in 1994, while the UK followed suit after 7 years in 2001. In the same year, the first official book containing all the OSW and OSPD words was published as the Chambers’ Official Scrabble Words: International Edition. The Collins Scrabble Words or CSW can also be considered a published copy of the SOWPODS under a different name.
The SOWPODS has over 260,000 words that have word lengths that range from 2 to 15 letters. Two-letter words have the least amount at 124, while eight- and nine-letter words have over 40 thousand each.
Inclusion of new words
As time goes by and as technology progresses, there is a constant need to keep the Scrabble dictionary updated and new words are included in the list from time to time. The changes began in the early 90s, which was also considered the Information Age. Computer-related terms were coined and included in the second edition of the OSPD.
The third edition came about after Judith Grad found some offensive words in the second edition. Initially, Merriam-Webster disregarded the request for the removal of such words, but through Jewish media publicity and the negative feedback from Scrabble players, a compromised third edition was published. The compromised edition did not include any word definitions.
The fourth and current edition of the official Scrabble dictionary came out in 2005. It has 4000 more words than the previous edition and includes more 2-letter words that are popular nowadays, “qi” and “za.”
Whether you’re a hard-core or casual Scrabble player, it is recommended to have a Scrabble dictionary at hand to make game play smoother and more official.
Scrabble has been around since the 1940s and is currently sold in over a hundred countries with 29 language versions available. With its easy game play of forming words with Scrabble letters, it is understandable why it is highly appealing, resulting in several Scrabble-inspired word games. Clearly, the stars of the game are its letter tiles and the following are some interesting things about them.
History of Scrabble letters
Alfred Butts created Scrabble based on another word game he also made, Lexiko, which had the same letter tiles. The frequency and distribution of the Scrabble tiles were determined by a close inspection of different sources, most particularly the New York Times. At first, Butts used his penknife to cut the original set of wooden letter tiles. Later on, when manufacturing became much easier, the Scrabble letters began to be made from Vermont Maple wood. Originally, there were only one hundred letter tiles, but the addition of two blank tiles made the total 102.
Letter Distributions and Point Values
Each language has a different letter frequency rate, so the letter distribution in Scrabble varies across the globe. However, generally speaking, the rarer a letter is used, the higher point value it has and vice versa. For example, in English, vowels are frequently used especially the letter E, so they are worth only a point each. The following is a list of the distribution of Scrabble letters in English versions of the game:
K, J, Q, X, and Z – 1 tile each
B, C, F, H, M, P, W, and Y – 2 tiles each
G is the only letter with three tiles
D, L, S, and U – 4 tiles each
N, R, and T – 6 tiles each
O is the only letter with 8 tiles
A and I – 9 tiles each
E has the most tiles at 12 (it is the most frequently used letter in the English language)
Because K, J, Q, X, and Z aren’t that frequently used, they carry higher point values at 5, 8, 8, 10, and 10 respectively. Aside from the vowels, the letters N, R, T, L, and S are also worth one point each. D and G are worth 2 points each, while B, C, M, and P are worth 3 points. F, H, V, W, and Y are worth 4 points each. Finally, the blank tiles that can represent any letter carry no points.
The most number of letter tiles is 120 and they are used in the Italian and Portuguese versions of the game. In the Malayan version, the letter A has the most number of tiles at 19, which is nearly a fifth of the total number of letter tiles. Using all seven letters in one move is called a bingo (in France and Spain, it is called “scrabble,” while in other countries, “bonus” is used), which rewards you with extra points. The highest-scoring 7-letter word is “quartzy,” as long as it is formed across a triple-word square and the Z is strategically placed on a double-letter square. The Spanish word “etario” is a seven-letter word that will most likely appear in a player’s Scrabble rack. Theoretically speaking, the highest score that can be obtained when playing in a US tournament is 1,778 points. The move will involve joining 8 tiles that are already on the board with new ones to form the word “oxyphenbutazone.” Three triple-word squares are also required to obtain this high score.
Records and Other Trivia
In 2008, Scrabble celebrated its 50th anniversary alongside Britain’s Prince Charles’ 60th birthday. To honor both occasions, black, brown, and white Scrabble tiles were used by Lizzie Sanders to create a portrait of the prince. In addition, the biggest Scrabble game was played at the Wembley Stadium, also in Britain. Every tile was a 6×6 feet square, approximately the size of a dining room table! At least two strong men were needed to lift each square.
With over 150 million Scrabble sets sold, it is no surprise to know that there are at least 1 million missing letter tiles all over the world! Moreover, if all the Scrabble letters ever made were to circumnavigate the planet, it would do so eight times!
If you have a vowel-rich letter rack, don’t panic. There are two-letter words that consist of only vowels! These are “aa,” “ae,” “ai,” “oe,” and “oi.” Also, there are more than a hundred acceptable two-letter words that use every letter in the alphabet, save for one: the letter V.
Scrambling for information about Scrabble letters is a fun thing to do and you can share what you learn to your opponents while playing this classic and well-loved word game!