You often hear the phrase, “…and last, but not the least…” when introductions are made in debates, contests, conferences, and many other events. However, in the case of the English alphabet, the last letter Z is definitely the least – the least frequently used letter, that is. Come to think of it, how many words with Z do we know aside from “zebra” and “zipper”? Compared to other letters, it may take a longer time for us to think of other Z words. Because of that, Z is also one of the most difficult letters to use (or get rid of, depending on your frustration) when playing Scrabble.
You shouldn’t be deterred from playing or winning the game because Z, along with Q, is worth 10 points! Imagine if you are able to land it on a double- or triple-letter or word square; your score can greatly increase. Z may be the last letter of the alphabet and the least used, but it’s quite an interesting letter.
History of Z
The letter Z originated from the Phoenician glyph that means “a weapon”: the glyph zayin. It looked like the capital I we use these days. Later on, the glyph became the Greek “zeta,” which resembles the letter Z we use now. In 300 BC, through a process called rhotacism, Z started to be pronounced like the letter R, prompting then Roman Censor Appius Claudius Caecus to have it removed from the alphabet. After 200 years, Z was brought back to the Latin alphabet, but it was only used in adapted Greek words. Since its sound was rarely used, it was relegated to the end of the list of letters. This placement of the letter Z was simply adapted into the English alphabet.
There are two prominent pronunciations of the letter Z: “zee” by Americans and “zed” by a lot of Australian, British, and Canadian speakers. “Zed” is the older one and originated from Old French. “Zee,” on the other hand, originated from a dialect in England during the 17th century.
Number of Words with Z
Even if it is the least frequently used letter, Z can still be found in so many words. Although the exact number isn’t determined, the English word list of Project Gutenberg (an archived collection of public domain books and is the oldest digital library), has 666 words with Z, and those are just the words that aren’t names. Since this number is significantly lower than those of other letters, it can be easier to study and memorize words with Z and use them to win in Scrabble!
Words that begin with Z
Don’t be limited to “zebra” and “zoo”; it’s time for you to add more Z words to your vocabulary, and here are some examples:
The word “zoo” is the root word of many biology terms, so they can be added into your study list of words that have Z.
Words that contain Z
As with other letters, the number of words containing Z is bigger than the number of words that have Z in the beginning, and here are some examples:
None of the examples above are proper nouns, but because Scrabble now allows you to form proper nouns like places, people, and brands, you can also begin memorizing proper nouns that have Z or begin with Z.
Where to find word lists
You can check your dictionary for words that start with Z, but in this day and age, you can easily access word lists on the Internet. Sites that have Scrabble word finders can help you have an organized study of words that have Z. You can sort them according to their word length, which is a systematic way to learn them. Some sites even have the meaning of the words, providing you with an even more equipped learning process.
Z may be the last letter of the alphabet, but it doesn’t guarantee you a last place finish in Scrabble; learning words with Z can greatly affect your Scrabble experience and pave the way to more wins.