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Glossary of Common Terms

The following terms are frequently used in club and tournament play, as well as in the SCRABBLE News

DLS: Double Letter Score. DWS: Double Word Score. TLS: Triple Letter Score. TWS: Triple Word Score. ?: The blank tile. The letter representing the blank is often highlighted in diagrams and underlined in text. OWL: The Official Tournament and Club Word List.

The alphabetic arrangement of a group of letters. Example: BEGNU is the alphagram of the word BEGUN.

A word that is spelled with the exact same letters as another word. Example: RIDES is an anagram of SIRED and vice versa.


See "HOOK".

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.

Any word played that uses all seven letters on the rack, earning a bonus of 50 points.

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. Example: ERS?, AL? or AERST.

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.

An opponent calls "CHALLENGE" when s/he thinks a play is not acceptable (i.e. not in the OWL or Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition). A Word Judge is called to verify which words are acceptable or not. Whenever there is a challenge, someone loses exactly one turn.

The slip of paper on which the words being challenged are printed by one of the players and double-checked by opponent.

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.

On this card each player keeps a record for each game: opponent's name and signature, who plays first, final score, total numbers of wins and his/her own cumulative spread.

While this is self-explanatory, 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.

If an opponent takes more than a minute to "Hold" a play, the player may draw new tiles but must keep them separate from the others until the "Hold" is resolved. Often, a third rack can be used to hold these new tiles.

A seldom-used but effective method of deciding tournament results. One "credit system" has each player beginning each game with 30 credits. The winner automatically earns 10 credits, plus 1 credit for each 10pt. of point spread (rounded off). The loser subtracts 1 credit from his or her original 30 for each 10pt. of spread. Arbitrarily, no more than 60 credits nor fewer than 10 credits can be earned. For example, if Player #1 beats Player #2 400-350, Player #1 earns 30 + 10 (for winning) + 5 (for winning by 5 x 10pt) = 45 credits. Player #2 earns 30 - 5 (for losing by 5 x 10pt.) = 25 credits. For ties, both players receive 35 credits.

When a player makes a play with letters that cover two Double-Word Squares. The bonus for covering two DWSs one play: quadruple the sum of the value of the letters of the "Double-Double" word. The sum should include that extra values earned form any DLS covered that turn only.


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.

The extension of one word by adding two or more letters. 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".

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.

See "Preprinted Tracking Sheet".


See "HOOK".

An opponent call "Hold!" when a player makes a play that the opponent ponders challenging. Calling "Hold!" signals to the player not to draw new tiles until either the challenge is officially resolved or the "hold!" is rescinded.

A letter that will spell a new word when it is played with 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.

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. Example: Triple Letter Squares or Double-Word Squares adjacent to vowels; a single letter placed between two Triple Word Squares; words that take a variety of hook letters (i.e. ARE, ON, CARE).

The leave is the group of tiles left on a player's rack after making a play and before drawing new tiles.

A bingo that does not use a blank tile. Also called a "Natural".

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

A word list superseded by OWL.

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

An arrangement of words on the SCRABBLE® game board is said to be "open" when there are many places to play either bingos or other high-scoring words.

See "New Word List".

When one player draws more tiles from the bag than is appropriate. See Rule (III.C) for the penalty for this situation.

As of March 1998 OWL (the Official Tournament and Club Word List published by Merriam-Webster, Inc.) is the official word source for all sanctioned NSA Clubs and Tournaments.

A word played parallel to another word. Example: With MAR on the board, LATE is a parallel play
   M  A  R
L  A  T  E

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 opponent's timer. It is now opponent's turn. Note that when there are 6 consecutive scores of zero in a game, the game is finished.

Any unacceptable word. An unacceptable word is one that is not found in the OWL. Or, if it has more than nine letters and the word is not found in the Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition. If a phoney is not challenged when it's played, however, it will stay on the board for the remainder of the game.


There are ten power tiles. They are the two blanks, the four Ss and the J, Q, X and Z.

Also called Frequency List. This sheet of paper has printed on it either the alphabet or a partial or complete list of the 100 lettered tiles used in one SCRABBLE® game. See "TRACKING".


Good "Rack Management" is the policy 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 National SCRABBLE® Association tournament a new rating is computed for each of the contestants. The rating represents how well an entrant is playing in relation to other players. The higher the rating, the more skillful the player. Ratings currently range from 400-2100.

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

In some tournaments and clubs, a three-minute sand-timer is used to time each player's turn.

If a player believes the Word Judge has made a mistake, s/he may ask for a second person to research the challenge. That second judgment is know as the "second opinion". If the second opinion contradicts the original one, a third opinion may be called for.

Using a specific computer program 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 give you 30pt while Play #2 gives you 20pt. 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. Most of the positions in our SCRABBLE News Annotated Game use simulations to check results. But sometimes the expert player will strongly disagree with these results due to extraneous factors: naive simulation randomizes opponent's rack (sometimes we have information about opponent's rack) and also only gives a point score evaluation of various plays - not winning chances.

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.

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.

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.

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. Players are penalized 10 points per minute for every minute or fraction thereof used over the allotted 25.

The process of keeping rack 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 high-scoring plays that an opponent can't block. Players are allowed to play with their own Preprinted Tracking Sheet alongside their Score Sheet. See "PREPRINTED TRACKING SHEET".



When a player makes a play that covers two Triple Word Squares. The bonus for covering two TWSs on one play: multiply by nine the sum of the value of the letters of the "Triple-Triple" word. The sum should include the extra values earned from any DLS covered that turn.

Players are going for "turnover" when they play as many tiles as possible 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 (In order from first to fifth they are: blank, S, E, X, Z). If you have played 60 tiles in a game, you had a 60% chance of drawing the good tiles. That's a 50% better chance than your opponent had.

Two-letter words that will take a third letter placed either in front or back to form a three-letter word. Example: AN is a two-to-make-three because BAN, CAN, etc., as well as AND, ANT, and ANY, are words. The three-letter word, BAN, CAN, and ANT, and ANY, are also known as two-to-make-threes.

Special workers designated to adjudicate players' challenges at clubs and tournaments.

HASBRO is the owner of the registered SCRABBLE® trademark in the United States and Canada. © 2011 HASBRO. All rights reserved. "SCRABBLE® Brand Crossword Game" is the proper way to refer to this unique group of word games and related properties marketed by HASBRO. "SCRABBLE®" is not a generic term. To use it as such is not only misleading but also does injustice to the company responsible for the trademark's longtime popularity. All we ask is that when you mean SCRABBLE® Brand Crossword Game, you say so. 

The SCRABBLE® trademark is owned by J.W. Spear and Sons, PLC, a subsidiary of Mattel, Inc. outside of the United States and Canada. 

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