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!