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The Official Scrabble Lexicon

2010 March 29
by admin


[Note: Books cited below are linked to Amazon​.com.]

Unlike other games that rely on a fairly sim­ple set of rules that both define and encom­pass the game – like a ship in a bot­tle – Scrabble opens itself up, in a drunken ges­ture, to all the chaos and unruli­ness of lan­guage itself.  Scrabble, in this way, is the oppo­site of chess.  In chess, all pos­si­ble moves, together with all strate­gic pos­si­bil­i­ties, are neatly bounded by a fairly sim­ple set of rules.  Part of the attrac­tion of chess, I believe, is the sense of won­der­ment a player encoun­ters and con­tin­u­ously relives as he or she explores the almost infi­nite cre­ative space gen­er­ated and sus­tained by a set of rules sim­ple enough they can be learned in half an hour.  It’s like dis­cov­er­ing a foot­ball sta­dium inside a Happy Meal box.

Scrabble is the oppo­site. To be good at Scrabble, you have to go get the foot­ball sta­dium and bring it, folded neatly inside your head, to the game table.  Chess is many things. It is also metic­u­lously and neatly self-contained. For some this is virtue. For oth­ers, it is a rea­son to pre­fer Scrabble.

The foot­ball sta­dium that you have bring with you is the lex­i­con of accept­able Scrabble words.

Below is list of anno­tated resources that will help you get a han­dle on the offi­cial word set that can be played in com­pet­i­tive Scrabble.  The offi­cial Scrabble lex­i­con includes 178,691 words (101 2s, 1015 3s, 4,030 4s, 8,938 5s, 15,788 6s, 24,029 7s, 29,766 8s, 29,150 9s, 22,326 10s, 16,165 11s, 11,417 12s, 7,750 13s, 5,059 14s, and 3,157 15s).

OWL2+LWL: As of March 1, 2006, in the US, Canada and Thailand, the offi­cial lex­i­con of accept­able Scrabble words is com­prised of the The Official Tournament and Club Word List, 2nd edi­tion (the OWL2) and the Long Word List (or the LWL). Together these two lists are often referred to OWL2+LWL. This offi­cial lex­i­con is main­tained by the dic­tio­nary com­mit­tee of the North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA). These is no sin­gle print pub­li­ca­tion that includes the entire Scrabble lex­i­con. The OWL2 is roughly equiv­a­lent to the The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, 4th edi­tion, pub­lished by Merriam-Webster (the OSPD4), but the OSPD4 does not con­tain 9-letter words or words deemed objec­tion­able (see below).  The LWL is roughly equiv­a­lent to the set of 10 – 15 let­ter words in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edi­tion (although the LWL was gen­er­ated using the 10th edi­tion of this dic­tio­nary). If you MUST have a phys­i­cal copy of the offi­cial lex­i­con sit­ting on your shelf, you can print out the com­bined text file (assum­ing you can locate a copy of the file) or gen­er­ate (and then print) a text file of your own using Zyzzyva (http://​www​.zyzzyva​.net). Electronic ver­sions of the OWL2+LWL avail­able in pro­grams like Zyzzva are now fre­quently used to judge whether or not a chal­lenged word is accept­able in tour­na­ment play(http://​www​.zyzzyva​.net/​a​b​o​u​t​.​s​h​tml).

OWL2+LWL TEXT FILE: There is a text file float­ing around on the inter­net that lists all 178,691 words in the offi­cial Scrabble lex­i­con (the com­plete OWL2-LWL).  This file can be imported into Excel.  If you want this file, but can’t locate it, email us at contact@​oldtownscrabble.​com. Scrabble-related web­sites gen­er­ally don’t post this file openly because of pos­si­ble copy­right issues.

OWL2: The OSPD was designed, when ini­tially pub­lished, to serve as the offi­cial scrab­ble lex­i­con for both casual and com­pet­i­tive play.  Judith Grad, how­ever, found sev­eral words in the sec­ond edi­tion that she con­sid­ered offen­sive, includ­ing the word “jew” defined as a verb.  She wrote to the National Council of Jewish Women and they began a letter-writing cam­paign.  Publicity from this cam­paign moti­vated Hasbro chair­man Alan Hassenfeld to remove “offen­sive” words from the OSPD begin­ning with the 3rd edi­tion.  This deci­sion was unpop­u­lar with com­pet­i­tive Scrabble play­ers and a com­pro­mise was reached.  It was decided that the OSPD would con­tinue to be pub­lished in its bowd­ler­ized form, but Merriam-Webster, in coor­di­na­tion with the National Scrabble Association, would pub­lish an uncen­sored ver­sion with­out def­i­n­i­tions (words only, in an alpha­bet­ized list) that would be used in com­pet­i­tive play.  Thus the Official Tournament and Club Word List (or OWL) was born.  It was also agreed that the family-friendly OSPD would be avail­able to the gen­eral pub­lic, while the OWL would only be avail­able to mem­bers of the National Scrabble Association (NSA). As of July 1, 2009, the OWL2 could be pur­chased by any­one at http://​www​.wordgear​.com.

THE LWL: The off­i­cal Long Word List (or LWL) can be pur­chased in phys­i­cal form from WordGear (click here) or down­loaded as a text file for per­sonal use from the North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA) web site: http://​www​.scrab​ble​play​ers​.org/​w​/​L​o​n​g​_​L​ist. The LWL includes all accept­able words of ten or more let­ters that are not listed in the the OWL2. This list has not been updated since 2002 and is based on the 10th edi­tion of Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, instead of the cur­rent 11th edi­tion. According to the NASPA web site, updat­ing the LWL is cur­rently the dic­tio­nary committee’s most press­ing agenda item.

THE OSPD4: The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary. Despite its name, the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary (or OSPD), is not an offi­cial word list for com­pet­i­tive or tour­na­ment Scrabble for at least two rea­sons. First, the OSPD4 only con­tains words from 2 to 8 let­ters in length. Second, begin­ning with the 3rd edi­tion, words judged to be inap­pro­pri­ate for fam­ily play were expur­gated. For these rea­sons (and prob­a­bly oth­ers), com­pet­i­tive Scrabble play­ers cre­ated the Official Word List (or OWL). The mass-market paper­back edi­tion of the OSPD4 is cheap ($7 or $8), though, and it’s a good study tool. You may want to pur­chase mul­ti­ple copies to mark up in dif­fer­ent ways.

EXPURGATED WORDS: In com­pet­i­tive Scrabble, objec­tion­able words like the verb “jew” (to bar­gain with) are accept­able, as are such words as blowjob, bulldyke, cock­sucker, col­oreds, dick­head, shit­head, wet­back, and many more. None of these words appear in the OSPD4, although they are included in the OWL. Lists of “expur­gated” words are avail­able from a num­ber of dif­fer­ent web sites. I believe the file I’ve posted con­tains all expur­gated words, but I have not per­son­ally spent any time ver­i­fy­ing it (which would require a very tedious and time-consuming word-by-word com­par­i­son of the OWL2 and the OSPD4). Without mak­ing any guar­an­tees regard­ing its accu­racy, here is a list of the words (with def­i­n­i­tions, inner and outer hooks, and a col­umn for study notes) that are accept­able in Scrabble, but are not included in the OSPD4: Expurgated_ALL.pdf. There really isn’t any­thing like play­ing in a library-type set­ting, with the accom­pa­ny­ing hushed whis­pers and tour­na­ment for­mal­i­ties, and hav­ing your oppo­nent, a proper grandma-esque sex­a­ge­nar­ian with bluish-white hair, lay down the word “poon­tang” or “dick­head” or extend the word “mother” already on the board by adding “fuck­ers” to it, and then calmly add up her 80+ point score on the play as though every­thing is as right as rain.

MERRIAM-WEBSTER’S COLLEGIATE DICTIONARY: Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition (hard­back). The Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition (hard­back) is the offi­cial ref­er­ence for long words. The OSPD4 con­tains words from 2 – 8 let­ters in length (with some excep­tions), while the Official Tournament and Club Word List, 2nd edi­tion, includes words from 2 – 9 let­ters in length (again, with some excep­tions), so another ref­er­ence source is required to deter­mine the accept­abil­ity of longer words. Although plays involv­ing words of 10 or more let­ters are rel­a­tively rare in Scrabble, there are sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of longer words that can, at least in the­ory, be played, includ­ing 22,326 10-letter words, 16,165 11-letter words, etc.

OWL2+LWL HISTORY: Information about the evo­lu­tion of the Scrabble lex­i­con is avail­able from numer­ous online sources (e.g. http://​en​.wikipedia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​O​f​f​i​c​i​a​l​_​T​o​u​r​n​a​m​e​n​t​_​a​n​d​_​C​l​u​b​_​W​o​r​d​_​L​ist). Start with this Wikipedia arti­cle, then if you’re still curi­ous, use a search engine (e.g. www​.google​.com) and terms like OWL2, TWL2 or TWL06 to locate addi­tional infor­ma­tion. In addi­tion to online sources, Stephen Fatsis does a good job detail­ing some of the inter­est­ing his­tory (and con­tro­ver­sies) of the Scrabble lex­i­con in a chap­ter enti­tled “The Words” in his book Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players.

TO REVIEW (because the alpha­bet soup can get con­fus­ing). The North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA) has a dic­tio­nary com­mit­tee that deter­mines what words are accept­able in com­pet­i­tive Scrabble play.   In the US, Canada and Thailand, this lex­i­con is referred to as the OWL2+LWL (Official Tournament and Club Word List, 2nd edi­tion+Long Word List).  You can prob­a­bly find a text file of this lex­i­con online, or you can cre­ate your own text file using the Zyzzyva study pro­gram.  The OWL2 can be pur­chased in phys­i­cal form from www​.wordgear​.com.  Longer words are listed in the Long Word List or LWL (avail­able for down­load from the NASPA web site).  The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, 4th edi­tion, by Merriam-Webster, and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edi­tion, are both use­ful resources for casual players.

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