Scrabble dictionary woes
August 19, 2018 5:54 AM   Subscribe

My husband and I are playing scrabble with a dictionary that is 20 years old. We are only allowed to play words that are in this dictionary - so, the names of Hebrew letters or Russian political positions are ok, but Filipino cake is not. Is there a more modern, global, "official" or unofficial dictionary we could use instead? Also, I'd love to hear about any house rules you have for what is and is not allowed in your scrabble games!
posted by rebent to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
One house rule we use from time to time when we don't want the game to drag is to play with 8 tiles instead of 7. It opens up the possibilities, amps up the score and shortens the duration. Besides the regular board we also have the oversized "Super Scrabble" set, where the rules still specify 7 tiles but 8 or even 9 makes more sense for that.
posted by beagle at 6:03 AM on August 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Ha! You are wading into treacherous waters without even knowing it... International competitive Scrabble is played using the Collins dictionary. Collins' website has a Scrabble-centric landing page for looking up words. American competitive Scrabble is played using the Official World List (OWL), which is a created solely for Scrabble. You can buy it in paperback form or check words on Hasbro's website (Hasbro owns Scrabble).

I see from your profile that you're in the U.S...Collins Scrabble has many more words than the OWL, which is why it's often hard for American players to win big on the international scene. Some competitive can play off both lists but many specialize in one or the other. Most major American tournaments play off the OWL with a smaller satellite tournament for people who play Collins.

The ultimate Scrabble book is considered Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis, a journalist who started researching competitive Scrabble before getting sucked into it as a player. The documentary Word Wars is a good companion piece.

Do I play Scrabble? No! I am I directly related to the previous World Senior Scrabble Champion (Collins)? Yes.
posted by whitewall at 6:29 AM on August 19, 2018 [19 favorites]

The Official Scrabble Player's Dictionary is on its fifth edition, and a sixth is coming out soon.

This dictionary is not without controversy--it's meant for casual play, including casual play with kids, and so it omits things like profanity and racial slurs, which some hardcore players do not appreciate.

American, Canadian, and Thai club and tournament players use the Official Tournament and Club Word List. Other English-speaking countries generally use Collins Scrabble Words (formerly SOWPODS), which is basically a merge of the old OSPD (American) and OSW (English) word lists.

(On preview, whitewall basically has this information covered.)

I like to play with a house rule that the first word played must be five letters or longer (if player one doesn't have a five-letter word, they can swap tiles or pass to player two)
posted by box at 6:31 AM on August 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

There are more recent editions of the official Scrabble dictionary that might include a more global English, but on preview, Whitewall has it.

Our house rule is that all players must have access to the same dictionary. Usually we use the Oxford Canadian or the Collins. Also, we specify that dictionaries can be used before/ during a turn and not merely to check up on other players' words.

We also award unofficial style points for interesting words, especially if we decide that they haven't been awarded a sufficient number of official points.

Also, my husband always keeps score, because if I track the score to closely, I become a competitive demon and am Officially No Fun.
posted by platitudipus at 6:35 AM on August 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

We often have a theme and words that fit that theme get bonus points. Sex, animals, food, nature, nautical, etc, whatever we think of before we start. It adds some challenge to the game. We have a pocket scrabble dictionary but usually disagree and bicker and DH drags out his massive dictionary then we argue some more about the use of it and thats almost as enjoyable as the game itself.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 7:00 AM on August 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

House rules: Bonus points for obscenities (open to debate), and if you play something really interesting, you have to at least make a stab at explaining its definition before the dictionary comes out.
posted by Flora Poste at 7:17 AM on August 19, 2018

Our house rule is to recycle blanks- Once a blank is played, if you have the letter the blank represents you can swap it for the blank. You must then use the blank( as a blank ) for your current play.
posted by TDIpod at 9:13 AM on August 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

My family is full of amateur but motivated and passionate Scrabble players. Re: dictionaries, our rule is whatever dictionary is in the house is the official dictionary for that specific game, and if there's no dictionary on-hand, we use the online OWL.

We don't take ourselves too seriously, as evidenced by some of the house rules:
- Certain words (usually vulgar, always inside jokes) are always allowed
- Foreign words that we all know and use are allowed (this gets fun when those of us who study linguistics play together!)
- You can declare a theme for the game: Star Wars, Rocky Horror, food, botany, reproductive education, whatever. You must justify your word's connection to the theme when you play it. It can be silly, but you have to convince the reset of the players to accept it.
- When we're playing with very small children, the outer edge of the board (the part that doesn't have squares) is considered fair game.
posted by rhiannonstone at 11:01 AM on August 19, 2018

We play with dirty words being worth an extra 40 points, just for the laughs. Also JOZXYQK is worth 50 points.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:15 AM on August 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

House rule: You can’t play a word unless you’ve seen it in the wild — that is, not just in a list of Scrabble words. (Recreational use of the dictionary counts as “in the wild.”) Basically unenforceable, but considered a matter of honor.
posted by snowmentality at 12:11 PM on August 19, 2018

Me and my SO play Scrabble like it is our job. We do it via and play synchronous games. We're on our ninth season, have played over 600 games together and our point average difference is 2 (mine is 361, his is 359). You can set some of the settings via We have 20 min per side SOWPODS games with no challenges. Our deal is if you play a word either you don't know or you opponent doesn't know it, you have to look it up and tell them what the word means. We'll often declare some particularly good (but often low-scoring) word a "moral victory" of the game, which was a thing my mom (who taught me) always used to say.
posted by jessamyn at 12:48 PM on August 19, 2018 [4 favorites]

Occasional (okay, we did it once) house rule: dirty words, foul language, and obscenities only.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:04 PM on August 19, 2018

@5_13_23_42_69_666: It has been house ruled that if I ever manage to play JOZXYQK, it would be legal. I've come close a few times.
posted by jozxyqk at 9:26 PM on August 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

We use the Scrabble dictionary app on our phones.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 10:53 AM on October 24, 2018

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