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In Words with Friends, a Scrabble clone for the iPhone, slang words - such as the following - are permitted:

  • za, slang for "pizza,"
  • lez, slang for "lesbian,"
  • And so on...

Are slang words allowed in official Scrabble games / tournaments?

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5 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

You can check for yourself at the Official Scrabble Dictionary. According to that site:

  • za is a legal word
  • lez is not (Keep reading)

Words With Friends uses the Enhanced North American Benchmark Lexicon with a few additions per their website. ENABLE is a public domain word list for use with word programs.

Thanks to @thesun's research it is obvious that the website is not the final word for Scrabble tournaments. Apparently the Scrabble folks censor their website, and books of around 200 offensive words.

To get the complete list you have to join the National Scrabble Association and pay for it. For most tournaments that will be the list used. If the tournament is televised then perhaps those 200 offensive words will not be allowed.

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Yeah, the latest official dictionary has added some game-breaking slang and alternate spellings, in my opinion. Za, qi and xi have turned three of the most challenging letters into easy big points, especially if you can spell them in two directions. –  LittleBobbyTables Jan 16 '11 at 1:41
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@LittleBobbyTables: Given that these letters pretty much torpedo your chances of scoring the 50 point bonuses on which most Scrabble games are won or lost, there needs to be an efficient way of offloading them. Anyone who opens up the possibility of tripling the Q, X or Z in both directions deserves everything they get if the opponent then makes that play! –  thesunneversets Jan 16 '11 at 2:00
    
Here's a page which clearly indicates that LEZ is an official word in both TWL98 and SOWPODS: phrontistery.info/scrabble3.html. The page was updated in 2007. Has LEZ been dropped from all Scrabble wordlists since then? It would be a big surprise to me if it had. (I think what's actually happening on the page you link to is that they've removed all rude words for the sake of the children. But even so rude words are not actually illegal in Scrabble. Where could you draw the line?) –  thesunneversets Jan 16 '11 at 4:39
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As "Lez" is certainly valid in Scrabble I'm pretty sad this has become the accepted answer (in its current form). See the first review here for confirmation that the "Official Scrabble Dictionary" is not actually complete, due to missing out swearwords that are perfectly valid, at least off air and amongst consenting adults: amazon.com/Official-SCRABBLE-Players-Dictionary/dp/0877792208 –  thesunneversets Jan 17 '11 at 4:00
    
@thesun - thanks for the research. I've updated my post to reflect that and a little that I did myself. I hadn't realized that there was so much controversy over Scrabble word lists! –  Pat Ludwig Jan 17 '11 at 4:39
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Slang words are 100% allowed in Scrabble - well, as long as they've been around long enough to have found their way into the dictionary.

The idea that slang is in some way verboten in Scrabble is mysteriously widespread among casual players I've run across. I defy them to find that prohibition in the actual rules!

"Za" is a fairly recent addition to the canon of official Scrabble words - I think it was popularized by the TV show Friends, or something? But it's now kosher, and a very welcome way of being able to quickly play a Z, especially in parts of the word that don't believe me when I tell them that ZO is a type of Himalayan ox. (Similarly, where would the game of Scrabble be without QI? Nearly unplayable, that's where.)

"Lez" may or may not be allowed the wordlist Pat had checked, but I'm pretty damn sure that some Scrabble wordlists have it in. (Mind you, I'm English, and the English official Scrabble wordlist is about twice the size of the American, so that could explain it.)

There was a televised world Scrabble championship of some kind which was notorious for one of the players playing "LEZ" in the final - and the judges quickly ruling it legal in spluttering embarrassment, due to the word's obvious potential to deprave and corrupt youngsters in the viewing audience. I'm pretty sure the implication was that LEZ was indeed in the wordlist: the guy was one of the top players in the world, and these people know their valid words. Afterwards he, quite rightly, said "I don't even think about what the words mean, I just play them if they're the best move". Happily, I do believe he went on to win the game and the championship!

EDIT: Here's a sample news article about the "lez" incident: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3542570.stm

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Excellent, a random downvote without any explanation or justification. Nice! –  thesunneversets Jan 16 '11 at 1:55
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There isn't a requirement, or even a need for downvotes to be explained. –  Pat Ludwig Jan 16 '11 at 2:42
    
There shouldn't be a requirement. However, if anything in my answer is factually inaccurate, contentious, or otherwise off base I'd love to know about it, because as far as I know, none of it is :D –  thesunneversets Jan 16 '11 at 4:31
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btw - 'qi' was only added in the fourth edition of the Scrabble Player's Dictionary. Prior to the 4th edition, you had to spell it "chi" –  warren Jan 17 '11 at 19:11
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@Scott Mitchell: This page en.wiktionary.org/wiki/… shows what's going on with "zo". It is internationally legal, but not legal in the US, Canada, Israel, or Thailand. I confuse people (including myself) a lot by having learned to play Scrabble in the UK! –  thesunneversets Jan 17 '11 at 19:30
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In addition to the comments made by other users, it should be noted that the ENABLE+ list used by Words with Friends and the North American Scrabble tournament lexicon, the Official Tournament and Club Word List, 2nd Edition (OTCWL2) are practically identical for the vast majority of words used casual, beginner, and intermediate tournament play. The most notable omission from ENABLE+ is JIVY, which is allowed in North American Scrabble, and the most notable addition to ENABLE+ is ZEN, which is not allowed in North American Scrabble.

Also, you can easily obtain the full North American Lexicon by downloading the (free, open-source) program Zyzzyva, which has searchable versions with definitions of all of the various Scrabble dictionaries used worldwide. Several iPhone apps, including Checkword and Zarf. The tournament lexicon (as of July 2009) is no longer managed by Hasbro (the company that owns Scrabble), but rather by the North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA) Dictionary Committee, and thus it is freely available through the sources mentioned above.

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Useful resources, thank you! –  thesunneversets Jan 20 '11 at 18:20
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Use the Scrabble Dictionary for further reference. Slang words such as za and zn are recognized even if they don't seem to look like a word. In this lens - http://www.squidoo.com/scrabble-solver-words-that-begins-with-z - you will find more awkward words yet they are recognized.

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David's suggestion of Zyzzyva looks like it might be the most comprehensive resource, but here are some others that might also be useful.

The Internet Scrabble Club has several lists to download, including SOWPODS and TWL06.

Scrabblist.com lets you verify words in either the SOWPODS or TWL lists. It has the advantage of not requiring any downloads. It doesn't give definitions, but Ninjawords is a very convenient tool for finding definitions.

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