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I know the fact that the words which are always capitalized aren't permitted in Scrabble. But there are some French loanwords incorporated into English, which aren't capitalized and aren't proper names in any way but contain a letter with a diacritical mark. Perhaps most well-known examples are café, (and née), fiancé (and fiancée), and naïve.

But standard English Scrabble set does not have É or Ï or any other letter with a diacritic.

I wonder if the words evidentiated in bold are OK to play in English Scrabble. (E. g. if I can play CAFE instead of CAFÉ.) I'd be very glad if I could watch an actual game with such a word. Thanks.

  • 6
    Adding to the good answer you've already received, you can check individual words against the official scrabble word list at the following website. scrabblewordfinder.org/dictionary-checker – James Nov 14 '17 at 12:19
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    Note that even in French, one often omits accents on capital letters, e.g., CAFE. Since Scrabble uses caps, there's no issue on that account (at least for French loanwords, and I would guess English adopts this convention for other loanwords with diacritics as well). – Kimball Nov 14 '17 at 22:10
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Scrabble does indeed allow words of a foreign origin IF they are used consistently enough in the English language to appear in an English dictionary.

Generally speaking this would result in the spelling being anglicised to remove diacritics since they have no meaning in English. As such you are highly likely to find the words naive, nee, cafe in an English dictionary without diacritics, thus they are usable.

From the Scrabble rules (at the end under Accepted Scrabble Words):

When playing an English version of the game, foreign words are not allowed to be placed on the board. However, if the foreign word does appear in a standard English dictionary, it is allowed. The reason for this is due to the fact that the word is spoken enough and is considered part of the English language.

It is also worth noting that even in the French edition of Scrabble diacritical marks are not present in the letters and are merely inferred by placing the appropriate unmodified letter.

The Wikipedia entry for Scrabble letter distribution also specifically states that diacritical marks such as é are ignored in words borrowed from French.

  • 4
    Despite the impression given above, it should be noted that there are many English words borrowed from other languages that appear in dictionaries with, and whose proper spelling still retains, diacritical marks. I do not think that it is correct to say that "generally" the diacritical marks are removed (but that has more to do with how the word "generally" is interpreted) – RBarryYoung Nov 14 '17 at 18:36
  • @RBarryYoung Many borrowed words that feature a diacritical mark are considered just as valid with or without it in English. Checking any of the above words gives mixed results, where some dictionaries show with the diacritic as the primary word and the word without it as an alternative, while others give the anglicised version as the primary and with the diacritic as an alternative. – Ken Herbert Nov 14 '17 at 22:38
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    There are, of course, words such as résumé, where dropping the diacritics would result in a different word! – Mr Lister Nov 15 '17 at 12:55
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    @MrLister Not that it makes any difference for Scrabble. – called2voyage Nov 15 '17 at 17:20
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    So if you play an implied diacritical 'e', must you treat it as a diacritical 'e' when using it in another word? I.E. could you play 'dance' using the 'e' in the implied-diacritical 'cafe'? – James King Nov 15 '17 at 21:50
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The official scrabble rules state:

Before the game begins, all players should agree upon the dictionary that they will use, in case of a challenge. All words labeled as a part of speech (including those listed of foreign origin, and as archaic, obsolete, colloquial, slang, etc.) are permitted with the exception of the following: words always capitalized, abbreviations, prefixes and suffixes standing alone, words requiring a hyphen or an apostrophe.

So if "CAFÉ" is in the dictionary you agreed upon, you will find it:

  1. is included in "all words"
  2. is not always capitalized
  3. is not an abbreviation
  4. is not a prefix or a suffic
  5. does not require a hyphen
  6. does not require an apostrophe

And thus, if challenged, should be considered a valid word.

  • The question is; is "ne" a valid spelling of "né"? – Taemyr Nov 16 '17 at 12:07
  • Yes, ne is allowed in Scrabble. – Gerald Edgar Jan 6 '18 at 22:06

protected by Joe W Nov 15 '17 at 22:27

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