Official Scrabble Players Dictionary

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Official Scrabble Players Dictionary
Official Scrabble Players Dictionary.jpg
First edition
AuthorMerriam-Webster, Inc.
CountryUnited States
PublisherMerriam-Webster, Inc.
ISBN978-0-87779-596-4 (sixth mass-market-paperback edition)

The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary or OSPD is a dictionary developed for use in the game Scrabble, by speakers of American and Canadian English.


Background and creation[edit]

The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary was first published in 1978 through the efforts of the National Scrabble Association (NSA) Dictionary Committee and Merriam-Webster, primarily in response to a need for a word authority for NSA-sanctioned clubs and tournaments. Prior to its publication, Scrabble clubs and tournaments used Funk & Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary as an official word source, but as tournament play grew, this source proved unsatisfactory. The inclusion of foreign words such as "Ja" and "Oui", the exclusion of common words such as "coven" and "surreal", and a lack of clear guidance on the creation of comparative terms, were all problematic for Scrabble players.[1]

Games manufacturers Selchow and Righter, the owners of Scrabble at the time, approached Merriam-Webster Inc. to assist with the compilation of an official Scrabble dictionary. They proposed that words should be included in the new dictionary if they appeared in the five in-print collegiate dictionaries, namely The Random House College Dictionary (1968), The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (1969), Webster's New World Dictionary (1970), Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (1973) and Funk & Wagnalls (1973).[1] Main entries in the OSPD contain from two to eight letters since those are considered to be the most useful.

The compilation was produced by hand and many errata and omissions were later discovered. For example, the word granola was present in all five nominated dictionaries but not in the OSPD. A second edition, OSPD 2, was released in 1991. The current edition is OSPD 6, released in September 2018.[2]

Although OSPD bears the name Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, no country’s competitive organization lists the OSPD as its official dictionary; the NASPA Word List is the official word list for tournament Scrabble in the United States, Canada, Thailand and Israel.[3] Merriam-Webster markets the OSPD as ideal for school and family use.

Offensive words[edit]

While reading OSPD 2, Judith Grad found several words she considered to be offensive, including "jew", listed as a verb with the definition "To bargain with – an offensive term".[4] (The more conventional sense of "member of a certain ethnoreligious group; Jewish person" was not listed because the dictionary did not include proper nouns.) Her initial letters to Merriam-Webster and Milton Bradley requesting removal of the words resulted in politely negative responses. Merriam-Webster responded "[the] slurs are part of the language and reputable dictionaries record them as such." Milton Bradley responded "As a dictionary, it is a reflection of words currently used in our language."[5]

Grad wrote to the National Council of Jewish Women, who began a letter-writing campaign in support of her cause. Publicity in Jewish media led to the Anti-Defamation League writing to Hasbro chairman Alan Hassenfeld, who announced that a third edition would be published with "offensive" words like racist labels, "FARTED", "FATSO", and "BOOBIE" removed.[5]

The news was generally not well received by members of the National Scrabble Association, which was not consulted in the decision. After receiving mostly negative feedback from players, including threats to boycott events, NSA president John D. Williams announced a compromise, the result of which was the publication, without definitions, of the unexpurgated Official Tournament and Club Word List, the predecessor of today’s NASPA Word List.[6]

Fourth edition[edit]

A fourth edition of the dictionary was published by Hasbro in 2005, which contained around 4000 additional words, including strategically useful two-letter words "QI" and "ZA".

Fifth edition[edit]

A fifth edition was published on August 6, 2014. New words include the two-letter words "DA", "GI", "PO", and "TE". A contest[7] to nominate and choose a new word to add to the lexicon was held online, and GEOCACHE was voted into the new lexicon.[8]

Sixth edition[edit]

The sixth edition was released on September 24, 2018. 300 new words were added, including "OK", "EW", "ZEN", "EMOJI", "FACEPALM", and "QAPIK".[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Fatsis, Word Freak, p. 143.
  2. ^ Italie, Leanne (24 September 2018). "Score! Scrabble dictionary adds 'OK,' 'ew' to official play". AP News. Associated Press. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
  3. ^ "The Israeli Scrabble Association". Archived from the original on 2007-07-19. Retrieved 2006-09-26.
  4. ^ Selchow Righter Company; Merriam-Webster, Inc. Staff (1990). The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary. Merriam Webster. ISBN 978-0-87779-120-1.
  5. ^ a b "How Controversy Changed SCRABBLE".
  6. ^ Fatsis, Stefan. (2001). Word Freak Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.
  7. ^ "Bestie, Ew, Slumdog, Twerk". 14 March 2014. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  8. ^ "Geocache beats out retweet, cosplay as new Scrabble word". Retrieved 23 May 2014.
  9. ^ "Yowza! 300 new words added to Scrabble dictionary". The Guardian. 24 September 2018. Retrieved 24 September 2018.

External links[edit]