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A Word About Word Lists

All you ever wanted to know about wordlists

2006.02.12 Sunday by Robert Giordano
 

Since we launched the new Design215 web site, the Word Finder has been one of the most popular pages in the toolbox. Recently, I've received questions regarding words that are missing and abbreviations that are not but should be. This article addresses these concerns and will hopefully clear up some of the mystery.

For those of you who don't care about the details, here are the quick facts:


  • Standard word list, 99,000+ words
    This is a spellcheck dictionary. It contains a wide range of words and standard abbreviations. It also contains some common names. It is designed for spellchecking rather than finding every possible word from a given set of letters. It generally does not contain slang or "indecent" words.

  • Extended word list, 167,900+ words
    This is a SCRABBLE® word list based on the 1998 Official Tournament and Club Word List (OTCWL) and Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition (MWCD10). It contains many slang words but is missing other words as explained in detail below.

A word about my spelling...
Before I begin, I would like to point out that "spellcheck" is not a word, at least not yet. In this age of email, blogs, and MySpace, I think "spellcheck" should be a word. How many times have you heard, "Geez, you should really spellcheck your profile!" or "I'm glad I spellchecked that email before I sent it." If I write "Spell checker", it makes me think of Harry Potter, not spelling.

Spellchecking vs. Finding Words
A good word list for spellchecking won't have "too many" words. Why? because common spelling errors could be missed. If you include every possible word in the english language, a misspelled common word might actually be the correct spelling of some obscure word. The best spellcheck "dictionary" finds the middle ground between too many words and not enough words.

Popular first names and abbreviations are also included in a spellcheck dictionary to reduce the amount of time it takes to check a document. Spellcheck dictionaries must be kept fresh by including words prevalent in current society. This includes words that appear with new technology like "blog" and "webcam" as well as products with long established brand names like "Kleenex" and "Teflon". Sometimes words included in a good spellcheck list may not be legal words in Official SCRABBLE® tournaments.

SCRABBLE® Players <3 Acronyms
First, we have the OSPD1 (Official SCRABBLE® Players Dictionary, First Edition). Naturally, there is the OSPD2, and OSPD3. In addition, we have the OSW1 (Official Scrabble Words, 1st Edition), which is the official reference for British players. Naturally, there is the OSW2, and OSW3. Lets not forget the OTCWL (Official Tournament and Club Word List), and words from the MWCD10 (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition). Finally, we have SOWPODS (A hypothetical combination of the British and North American lexica, used in international play and regular tournament play in some countries, based on OTCWL, MWCD10, and OSW3). Are you confused yet? I am.

Politically Correct Words?
The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary (OSPD) has been the basis of the official word list used for all North American tournament and club play since its first edition was published in 1978. It included all words of eight or fewer letters, and simplified the settling of arguments by specifically showing all of the plurals of nouns, conjugations of verbs, etc.

In 1995, Hasbro decided their word game should be politically correct and created the Third Edition of the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary (OSPD3). It omits approximately 167 words labeled as offensive to specific ethnic, racial, sexual and other groups. Some of these horrible words are "boobie", "farted", "gringo", "honky", "jews", "pissed", and "spics". Hasbro said this was done because of its desire to promote Scrabble in elementary schools using the OSPD and because of complaints by offended ethnic groups. The OSPD3 is now known as the "ESPD" (Expurgated Scrabble Players Dictionary) and is no longer used as the official reference for club and tournament play.

Word Finder Extended Word List
The Extended word list option in the Word Finder is based on the 1998 Official Tournament and Club Word List (OTCWL) and Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition (MWCD10). The OTCWL contains words of up to nine letters, their inflections, longer words with nine-letter inflections, and any other inflections they may have. It includes all of the words deemed "offensive" by Hasbro. The MWCD10 contains words of ten or more letters, and their inflections.

Why are slang/indecent words in the Extended List?
The OSPD was formed according to the rules of Scrabble, allowing all non-capitalized words without apostrophes or hyphens which are not designated as foreign. The OSPD includes all words found in at least one of five major US college dictionaries, including a total of ten editions.

The dictionaries used are:

  • Funk & Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary (1973 printing)
  • American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (First and Second College Editions)
  • Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary (Merriam-Webster; Eighth through Tenth Editions)
  • Webster's New World Dictionary (Second and Third College Editions)
  • Random House College Dictionary (Original Edition and Revised Edition)

Standard vs. Extended
Even though the Extended word list has 70 percent more words, it is missing several hundred words contained in the Standard word list...

  • The Extended word list does not contain any words longer than 15 letters. The Standard word list contains words like "telecommunications" (18 letters), counterintelligence (19 letters), and internationalization (20 letters).
  • The Standard word list contains common names like "George", "Jennifer", and "Robert". The Extended word list does not contain any names because Scrabble does not allow capitalized words.
  • The Standard word list contains the names of well established products and terms like, "email", "formica", "frisbee", "mohawk", and "teflon". The Extended list does not contain these words.

Bibliography



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[3 Comments]


  

CHERYL

03 Apr 2008 10:18am

"I need help unscrambling these letters into 2 words... BITRANGUHOAG"
 


  

Bobby King

03 Jan 2011 4:07pm

"9 letters starting with W. Other letters are eaotrehl. The word is Waterhole but this program couldn't find it???

[Reply from Robert Giordano]
Some words are problematic. "Waterhole" is not is the official Scrabble dictionary and as far as I know, would not be allowed in tournament play. Merriam Webster does not list "Waterhole" but does have an entry for "Water Hole". In the future, you'll be able to select additional, extended word lists."
 


  

A E

29 Jan 2012 5:20am

"Why can't you combine the two lists?"
 

  

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