The Ten Most Useful Scrabble Words

There are a total of 178,691 words accepted in the game of Scrabble. That may seem like more words than humanly possible, and, in fact, 13 of those words are not actually playable using the standard 100 Scrabble tiles. (When memorizing, leave out classlessnesses, knickknack(s), pizzazz(es), pizzazzy, possessednesses, razzamatazz(es), razzmatazz(es), senselessnesses, and stresslessness.) “Why even put those words on the list?” some may ask. Probably for the same reason anyone would talk about Scrabble in the first place – because it’s surprisingly fun.

Many beginning Scrabble (or Words with Friends) players do not understand that the word itself really does not matter; it’s all about points. Whoever gets the most points wins. Period. Unfortunately, at various points during a game, every player inevitably finds himself or herself with a terrible assortment of letters – either too many vowels, too few, or a garbled, hopeless mess. Here are 10 of the most useful words you’ll never use except while playing Scrabble, in no particular order:

OEn. a whirlwind off the Faeroe islands

This list really should include all of the 101 acceptable two-letter words. If you want to drastically improve your score almost overnight, learn the two-letter words. They will allow you to create more words in a single turn, yielding a higher score. Not to mention that you are committing 101 words to memory that will not come in handy while reading, writing, or speaking. You can’t say that about too many word lists.

CRWTHn. an ancient stringed musical instrument

This word is just plain awesome. Not only because you receive a fairly high-point value without needing a vowel, but it also has the curious effect of causing your opponent to get up, give you the finger, and walk away defeated when they find it in the Scrabble dictionary.

OORIE or OURIEadj. shivering with cold

Both words mean the same thing, and both are perfect if you have too many vowels. Instead of trading in tiles and taking a zero, you can normally squeak out 7 or 8 points while clearing out most of your low-point tiles.

TAJn. a tall, conical cap worn in Muslim countries

Think about all the words you know that include “J” (J-Board, J-Wow, etc.). The “J” always seems to be at the beginning. Not anymore. Add TAJ (and RAJ) to your repertoire and you’ll be going through “J’s” faster than the Berger kids on 4/20.

ZITIn. a tubular pasta

Perfect if you are trying to add on to someone else’s “ZIT” (as gross as that may sound).

AALIIn. a tropical tree

“A’s” and “I’s” can be useful until you have two of each. Instead of becoming frustrated, just remember the soothing name of that Polynesian tree and you'll dump them all in one go.

OUGUIYAn. a monetary unit of Mauritania

Speaking of great vowel dumps, (hardly anyone actually speaks of great vowel dumps) this is the king of them all. If you can actually pull this off, your opponent should just quit. It’s 7 letters, which means if you play all the tiles from your rack, you get a BINGO, which entails a 50 point bonus as well as bragging rights.

KEXn. a dry, hollow stalk

“EX” is fairly common; “KEX” should be. Whether you are trying to connect with someone else’s “EX” (not normally a good a idea in the real world, but a great strategy in Scrabble) or happen to have a K in your rack, this can turn a good turn into a great turn.

QATn. an evergreen shrub (an alternate spelling of KAT)

A “Q” without a “U” is like finals week. You can either pull something out of nowhere and look like a genius, or you can wait and wait for a miracle to happen (drawing a “U” on the next turn). I vote in favor of the first option. Put down “QAT” or “QI” and move on.

JOTAn. a Spanish dance

Add an A to somebody else's “JOT,” but when they ask you what it means, please don’t get up and dance. That’s just cruel.

Anyone who is interested in playing Scrabble with other students or learning more about the game should go to the first meeting of the Claremont Colleges Scrabble Club Friday night (9/9) at 7pm in the Claremont Hall Lounge. The club meets twice a month, and plans to hold a tournament in October. For more information, contact Evan Casey ’14 at

I would like to extend a special thanks to Steven Falk and Daniel Shapiro for help constructing this article, and for routinely beating me at Scrabble.