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.