The following glossary was obtained from the National SCRABBLE® Association and has since been updated.

The alphabetic arrangement of a group of letters. Example: BEGNU is the alphagram of the word BEGUN. Arranging sets of tiles into alphagrams can be helpful for memorization and recall.

A word that is spelled with the exact same letters as another word. Example: RIDES is an anagram of SIRED and vice versa. Notation: The tilde symbol is often used to indicate anagrams of a given word. For example, TILDES ~DELIST ~IDLEST ~LISTED ~SILTED.

An anagram mnemonic, or memorization technique, which allows you to quickly recall which letters can be combined with a rack to form a word when the letters are rearranged. For example, remembering TSUNAMI: COASTAL HARM would make it easier to remember each of the letters that can be added to TSUNAMI to make an eight-letter word. TSUNAMI+C = TSUNAMIC, +O = MANITOUS/TINAMOUS, +A = AMIANTUS, +S = TSUNAMIS, +T = ANTISMUT, +L = SIMULANT, +H = HUMANIST, +R = NATRIUMS/NATURISM, +M = MANUMITS.

Any word played that uses all seven letters on the rack, earning a bonus of 50 points. Outside North America, this is simply called a “bonus”.

A group of tiles that are likely to produce a bingo. Often used to describe a player’s set of three to six tiles just before drawing his or her replacement tiles. Keeping a good balance of common letters, especially the letters seen in the word RETAINS, means you have bingo-prone tiles. Example: ERS?, ANT? or AERST.

A blank tile has no letter printed on it. It can represent any letter, but itself is worth zero points. There are two blanks in the game. Blanks are very useful because they give a player more word possibilities and when combined with some common letters, it can be much easier to produce a bingo. Save your blanks for high scoring plays. Notation: Lowercase letters within a word indicate the blank tiles that were used. For example, WiLDcARD.

A bingo that includes a blank tile.

The act of playing a word on the board that stops the opponent from making a potentially large score. It also refers to the act of playing words that make it harder for either player to score many points.

The act of deliberately playing a phoney word. This is completely ethical and is a weapon used by many experts, even against other experts.

Feeling the surface of a tile while your hand is in the bag in order to draw a blank or other specific letters. This is strictly forbidden. Therefore, smooth tiles that cannot be brailled are preferred at clubs and tournaments.

After calling “HOLD“, a player can call “CHALLENGE” when he thinks a play is not an acceptable word. If more than one word has been played on a turn, a player can challenge any or all of them. The word is checked by a word judge. If the play is acceptable, the challenger loses a turn. If the play is unacceptable, the invalid play is removed from the board and it is now the challenger’s turn.

Often called a chess clock, it is actually two clocks housed in one case. Sanctioned tournament games are times using these clocks. Each player has 25 minutes to play the entire game. After making a play, the player starts his/her opponent’s time by pressing one of the two buttons on the top of the clock. The game continues in this fashion until finished. See overtime.

The opposite of an open board: when there are few places to play either bingos or other high-scoring plays.

To make small talk, crack knuckles, or do any of a number of things meant to distract or mislead your opponent. This is unethical and strictly forbidden in clubs and tournaments. It is generally considered impolite to talk during a tournament game unless it is pertinent to the score or the play.

The dictionary most commonly used outside North America. It is available as a free download as part of Zyzzyva. Notation: A pound symbol indicates a word that is present in the Collins lexicon, but not in the Official Club and Tournament Word List. For example, VIFDA#.


A coordinate system of letters A-O, for columns, and numbers 1-15, for rows, indicate where the first letter of a play was placed to quickly identify a position on the board. By writing the letter first (C11), a vertical play is indicated, but by writing the number first (11C), a horizontal play is indicated. For example, 6D ZINNIA indicates the word ZINNIA was played horizontally with the Z in the fourth column, sixth row.

Players often count tiles at two different times: 1) before a game begins to ensure that there are 100 tiles; 2) near the end of the game, when knowing exactly how many tiles remain to be played can be crucial for the astute player.

The Director is a person intimately familiar with SCRABBLE®, its rules and strategies, who facilitates clubs or tournaments.

A play that cover two Double Word Scores. This has an effect of multiplying the score of the word four times. The sum should include the extra value earned from any DLS covered that turn only.

Dumping is the act of making a play with the intention of getting rid of some less desirable tiles. Usually it’s best to dump uncommon letters that are not likely to produce a bingo, in favour of keeping bingo-prone tiles.

When a rack has more than one of a given letter. Better players strive to avoid duplication because, in general, there are fewer choices for good plays when duplication exists.

The portion of a SCRABBLE game when there are less than seven tiles left to draw from the bag.

Instead of playing a word on the board, the player may use his/her turn to exchange any number of tiles in the rack for new tiles. These are drawn from the bag, as long as there are at least 7 tiles in the bag. Place your unwanted tiles facedown on the table, announce how many you are exchanging, press the clock, draw your new tiles and place them separately facedown on the table, then return the unwanted tiles to the bag and put the new tiles on your rack.

Adding two or more letters to a word on the board is called an extension. Example: With QUEST on the board, adding CON to the front creates the extension CONQUEST. Adding DO to the end of HAIR forms the back extension HAIRDO. Adding SURF and RD to BOA forms the double extension SURFBOARD. Notation: Parentheses enclose the letters which were already on the board when a play was made. For example, (WARM)ONGER.

To play only one or two tiles, usually for few points, keeping five or six really good tiles, with the hope of playing a high-scoring word next turn.

The number of each letter in the distribution. There are 100 tiles in total. For example, there are 9 A tiles, 12 E tiles, 2 V tiles and 4 S tiles. Knowing how many there are is important for strategic purposes as well as ensuring your set is complete.

Heavy tiles are the consonants with high point values. Q, Z, J and X are the heaviest tiles. Placing these tiles on bonus squares, especially in parallel plays next to vowels, can produce very high scores.

A player can call “HOLD” when the opponent makes a play that the player ponders challenging. Calling “HOLD” signals to the opponent not to draw new tiles until either a challenge is called or the play is accepted. If a player spends more than one minute holding, the opponent may draw new tiles but must not place them on the rack until the hold is resolved.

A letter that will spell a new word when it is played in the front of or at the end of a word already on the board. Example: With HARD on the board, the letter Y is a hook letter since HARDY is acceptable. Likewise, the letter C can be “hooked” since CHARD is acceptable. By hooking a letter onto an existing word, you can make more than one word in one turn and increase your score. Notation: Lowercase letters to the left of a capitalized word indicate front hooks. Lowercase letters to the right of a capitalized word indicate back hooks. For example, cs HOOK asy means HOOK can become CHOOK, SHOOK, HOOKA, HOOKS or HOOKY.

These are either specific squares or areas on the board that have excellent bonus-scoring opportunities. Players will do well to identify these areas before looking for words on their rack. Hotspots are often found at Triple Letter Scores or Double Word Scores adjacent to vowels, a single letter placed between two Triple Word Scores, and words that have many potential hooks.

The leave is the group of tiles left on a player’s rack after making a play and before drawing new tiles. Maintaining a good leave will ensure that you will be able to make another good play on your next turn.

When the bag is empty and one player no longer has any tiles, the game ends and the total value of remaining tiles on the opponent’s rack, the leftovers, is doubled and added to the player’s score. Therefore, if the opponent’s leftover tiles are JEV, then (8 + 1 + 4) x 2 = 26, and 26 points will be added to the other player’s score.

The North American SCRABBLE® Players Association, the organization which oversees official club and tournament play in North America.

A natural bingo is a bingo that does not use a blank tile.

To stop the game clock. Neither player’s time continues during challenges, rule disputes or score verifications.

A bingo on your rack that won’t play on the board.

The National SCRABBLE® Association facilitates School SCRABBLE®, casual clubs, Word Gear and more for all fans of the game.

The opposite of a closed board. An arrangement of words on the board is said to be “open” when there are many places to play either bingos or other high scoring words.

The Official SCRABBLE® Players Dictionary is the primary lexicon for school and household play. Published by Merriam-Webster, this lexicon is considered family-friendly as many words deemed offensive have been omitted. It is currently in its fourth edition and is sold in most major bookstores and is also available as a free download as part of Zyzzyva.

The final play of the game. When the bag is empty and a player makes a play leaving no tiles on her rack, the player announces her score and stops the clock. Then leftovers and overtime penalties are applied.

When one player draws more tiles from the bag than is required. The Director should be called to explain proper procedure.

After zero, a player’s clock goes into negative time. 10 points will be deducted from the player’s score for every minute overtime starting with -0:01. For example, if a player’s time reaches -4:23, 50 points will be subtracted from the player’s score at the end of the game. If a player’s clock reaches 10 minutes overtime (-10:00), the game ends and it is an automatic loss.

The Official Tournament and Club Word List is the primary lexicon used in Canada, the United States and Thailand for all official clubs and tournaments. It is based on OSPD, but contains more words than OSPD because it includes offensive words, some trademarked terms (e.g. “KLEENEX”) and words longer than eight letters. Last updated in 2006, TWL consists of 178 691 words. It is available as a free download as part of Zyzzyva. Also, a nocturnal bird.

A word played overlapping or underlapping another word. This creates numerous words in a single turn and can score many points.

Example: With ARE on the board, a player can overlap FOYER, forming three more acceptable words, FA, OR and YE.


A player may pass his/her turn by not exchanging tiles and not making a play on the board. The player scores zero and says “Pass!” and starts the opponent’s clock. Note: If there are 6 consecutive scores of zero in a game, the game ends.

Any unacceptable word. An unacceptable word is one that is not found in the dictionary being used. If a phoney is not challenged when it’s played, however, it will stay on the board for the remainder of the game. Notation: Phoneys are indicated with an asterisk. For example, KWYJIBO* is not a word.

There are ten power tiles. They are the two blanks, the four Ss, J, Q, X and Z. Having more of these tiles gives a player a distinct advantage in the game. The blanks make it easier to make words, especially bingos, an S can be used to pluralize many words, and the J, Q, X and Z can produce high scores easily.

There are the Double Letter Score (DLS), Triple Letter Score (TLS), Double Word Score (DWS) and Triple Word Score (TWS). These coloured spaces on the board increase the score of the play. A premium square is only active on the first turn it is used. Also called bonus squares.

Often at the end of the game, it is possible for one more player to have a Q, but no way to use it. Knowing the words containing a Q without a U, such as QI or QAT, can be very helpful to avoid this scenario. If you suspect your opponent may have the Q, it can be wise to attempt to block any available Q plays so that the opponent cannot use the Q and you can gain an additional 20 (2 x 10) points from the leftover tiles.

Quackle is the leading computer simulator and top artificial intelligence player in the world. See the Apps page for more information.

Making a play that allows you to save the letters on your rack that will most likely help you score well next turn. This often means leaving an equal number of vowels and consonants.

The practice of managing your leave each turn to be as flexible as possible. In this case “flexible” means your leave will combine with as many draws as possible to form seven-letter racks that score well.

For every sanctioned NASPA tournament a new rating is computed for each of the players. The rating represents how well an entrant is playing in relation to other players. The higher the rating, the more skillful the player. A beginner player has a rating around 500, but the best players in the world have ratings over 2000.

In club or tournament play, one game is one round. There are five or six rounds (games) per day at most tournaments.

Players are required to maintain a running total for both themselves and their opponents. This way both players always know the current score and can catch any adding errors.

Using a specific computer program (such as Quackle) that can play out positions thousands of times very quickly, it can be determined which play is worth more in the long run. For instance, play #1 may immediately score 30 points while play #2 gives you 20 points. But in the long run, play #2 may allow you to follow it up with plays that earn 5 more points than play #1 (combining both this turn’s play with next turn’s play and considering your rack leave after that). In simpler terms, this may mean that if you play out this position 2000 times, you’ll wind up earning 5 more points with play #2 than with play #1. This also takes into account how many points your opponent will earn. Simulation is an excellent tool for SCRABBLE® game analysis, although it isn’t foolproof.

The difference between the winning and losing score of a game. Example: If the score of a game is 350-280, then the spread is +70pt for the winner and -70pt for the loser.

Certain five- and six-letter combinations of letters are so useful for forming bingos that lists of bingos have been printed that use these five- and six-letter stems. Some of the more useful stems are: STARE, STANE, RETINA, SATINE, SATIRE. By learning these lists and saving these letters, players will be able to play bingos more often.

An arrangement of all 100 tiles on the board into a sentence or phrase makes it easier to verify the correct tile frequency. See the Docs page for more information.

This term is most often used to describe a SCRABBLE® game played with at least three people and as many as six or eight. Only two sides compete with one rack each. Each team discusses their potential plays before making the final play on the board. A team game is a good vehicle for teaching or for simply having a lighter, more sociable atmosphere during a game. Talking is permitted, though each side tries to keep from revealing too much information about their tiles to the opposing team. School SCRABBLE® is most often played as a 2-on-2 team game, which encourages teamwork and makes the game more fun.

Over the course of many games the plus (+) or minus (-) spread for each game is added together. At the end of the tournament each player has a total spread for the event, used to break ties in the win-loss standings.

The process of keeping track of the letters played on the board. This can give the astute player an advantage as the game progresses. Careful trackers can deduce opponent’s rack after there are no letters left to draw. By tracking the player can often block opponent’s best plays or set up high scoring plays that an opponent can’t block. Players are allowed to play with a preprinted tracking sheet alongside their score sheet.

A play that covers two Triple Word Scores. This is sure to produce a very high scoring play because it has an effect of multiplying the score of the word nine times. The sum should include the extra value earned from any DLS covered that turn. The current world record for high score in a single turn was the triple-triple CAZIQUES. (3 + 1 + 10 + 1 + (10 x 2) + 1 + 1 + 1) x 9 + 50 = 392.

Players are going for turnover when they play long words in order to draw as many new tiles as possible. By playing for turnover (usually using 5 or 6 tiles in one play), a player maximizes his/her chances for drawing the better tiles, such as the power tiles.

Typos are words which are valid, but look like other words misspelled. For example, a STRONGYL is a parasitic worm, but an opponent may think the player misspelled STRONGLY and could be drawn into a mistaken challenge.

A computer or volunteer designated to adjudicate players’ challenges at clubs and tournaments.

Zyzzyva is the leading dictionary, word study and word judge computer application in the world. See the Apps page for more information. Also, a tropical weevil.

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