I downloaded the zyzzyva program and have been using it to sharpen my anagram solving skills, but it isn't great to learn new words with. I'm probably not using it right, but it seems like there are better ways.

I watched a few Scrabble games from the tournament and they of course know all sorts of words. How do they learn them though? What's the best way to go about learning and making sure you retain what you learn?

3 Answers 3


Learning and retaining a bunch of words is easy; any basic flashcard system can help you do that. However, all those fancy Scrabble words you stuff into your brain won't help you win any tournaments unless you can get them back out again on demand.

The tricky part isn't retention, it's recall.

Now, ideally, you want to start learning new words when you're about five or six years old, and just read absolutely everything you can get your tiny little hands on. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, what have you. That will give you a few decades of practice with your vocabulary, which you can then pull out at your leisure when you're ready to hit the world of serious Scrabble. All the best players I've met have been avid readers for most of their lives.

Of course, not everyone lives in an ideal world. Sometimes you're stuck being twenty years too old to start afresh; you have to play the tiles life deals you.

Worry not!

As mentioned earlier, learning the words is easy. Write all the words you want to learn on flashcards. Read through a dozen or so at a time (your mileage may vary, adjust according to taste and local custom), wait a few minutes, then try to write them all back down again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Once they're in your brain, they're pretty much in there for good. However, in order to pull them out at will, you need to use them. Use them a lot. Use them every chance you get; the more avenues of attack you open up, the easier it is to recall them later. Write words down. Say them out loud. Read them back. Translate them into Spanish. Model them out of Play-doh. Be creative.

I've not used the Zyzzyva program myself, but it sounds like an excellent resource for developing recall. You don't want to limit yourself to only the one system though.

The traditional method of learning new words, one which will have English teachers worldwide nodding their heads, is the simple yet effective "Use it in a sentence." This may not always be the easiest route, especially when dealing with the wonderfully archaic words Scrabble professionals so know and love, but it's a great starting point. Try to work whatever words you learn into your daily conversation; don't concern yourself with the fact that you now sound like a total nerd, that's just a sacrifice you'll need to make. This is Scrabble we're talking about here. Serious business.

Another effective tool is to do a lot of word games. A LOT of word games. Do the word search and the crossword puzzle in your local newspaper. Go to your local magazine rack, they almost always have a huge tome that says something like "Super Giant Book of Awesome Word Puzzles". Buy one and solve them all. It'll be worth it.

One trick I personally use is to do a normal crossword puzzle one day, and then the next day I pull out a sheet of graph paper and redo the puzzle entirely from memory as a diagramless. Effective, but not for the faint of heart.

Also, learn all the two-letter words. It's crazy how useful those can be when you're playing combinations.

  • yes learn as many 2 letter words as you can for sure, but while this answer is good if you are going to play clubs or tournaments you need to make sure you are using the official scrabble dictionary word lists and not just any words. Jun 6, 2015 at 7:33

There are many ways on how you can improve your vocabulary to get more points in Scrabble. Learning new words is easier if you read a lot. Whenever you encounter difficult words, you can write it down and look for the meaning in a dictionary. It is easier to remember a word when you completely understand what it means. Using Scrabble Word Finder tools like the one from http://blogmybrain.com/scrabble-word-finder/, will help you to know a list of difficult words which you can use in Scrabble. Try also to play Scrabble regularly, so you can practice and hone your skills. Read more information about the tips and tricks in Scrabble, so you would know how to play the game and spot the high scoring letters.

  • 'Difficult words' are not necessarily useful in Scrabble: for one thing, many of them have more than eight letters. This is good advice, but improving your vocabulary and improving your Scrabble skills are two different things (though related). Nov 10, 2012 at 17:52
  • Thanks for your comments. There are really a number of ways on how one can improve his or her game in scrabble. I just merely cited the different ways on how one can improve his or her vocabulary, in relation to scrabble. Indeed, there are many other possible ways to do it, depending on the preference of the users. Nov 19, 2012 at 10:14

There are lot of resources to learn new words. Since Apalabrados (Angry Words) game went out, many word-finding web applications have been built. You can try http://www.angrywordstricks.com that has a huge English dictionary.

  • 1
    Since there are many out there, what separates angrywordstricks from the others? Can you elaborate on how it helps the player learn (as opposed to just solving a particular board state)? Also, do you have any affiliation with the site?
    – corsiKa
    Jul 4, 2013 at 15:22

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