In playing Scrabble with friends, where can I find a dictionary that doesn't contain the ridiculous two-letter words that turn the game into a contest to see who has spent the most time reading the official Scrabble dictionary?

I'd want present-day words, but don't want words like:

ee: The sound made to say the letter 'E'

It seems that even online resources have been pandering to the hardcore Scrabble crowd.

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    The Scrabble rules explicitly state the conditions for a word to be legal in the game. I guess you can add additional restrictions to what is legal, like stating a more limited word source, like a collegiate dictionary. Dec 4, 2012 at 0:08
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    For what it's worth, many clubs allow beginners to play with club-printed lists of 2-letter words. Rather than trying to arbitrarily dictate that 'QI' is bogus but 'EM' is legit - and remember which is which! - why not have a copy of that list handy and allow it as an explicit resource? Dec 4, 2012 at 1:28
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    EE isn't the sound of "e", by the way - it's a Scottish dialect form of "eye". Plural EEN. I think you might offend a Scottish opponent if you called it "ridiculous" to their face. Then again, I do have some sympathy for people not in the United Kingdom that are faced with some of the very localised forms that are legal in our (rather vast) official wordlist... Dec 4, 2012 at 9:04
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    Rather than ridiculous- you should say technical QI is religious, AA is geological or foreign words that are not commonly part of the English language like EE. Basic lazy additions to English dictionary when they exclude all sorts of other technical words including the correct names for animals and infinite numbers of chemicals. Mar 18, 2014 at 8:45
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    You could carry this to the logical extreme and limit your games to the ten hundred (The word "thousand" isn't in that list) most common English words: splasho.com/upgoer5/phpspellcheck/dictionaries/1000.dicin Jul 9, 2021 at 11:53

7 Answers 7


Every dictionary has words that would be considered "ridiculous" in it. You can choose to have an arbitrary subset of ridiculous words, but that doesn't really improve the situation any. Most of these are in every reasonably-sized dictionary anyway (e.g. how do you feel about ZAX?).

There are a small enough number of 2-letter words that you can ban them on an individual basis (i.e. no QI, XU, XI, or ZA), or make a whitelist (these are the only 2-letter words we're allowing). If you do this and just use the regular Scrabble dictionary for everything else, you'll substantially lessen the edge of people who study the official word list, without suffering the problems of using a small dictionary that might exclude actual words.

  • One big problem with the official word list is that while it includes many "ridiculous" two-letter words (which the lexicographers obviously devoted a lot of effort to scouring for), it does not include other much more common words (which they've overlooked). For example, HEATY is far more commonly used by English speakers than say QI (supposedly "a Chinese life force") or XU (supposedly a Vietnamese unit of currency even though it's no longer even used in Viet Nam and would be equal to 1/100th of a dong, or about US$0.000044). Yet HEATY isn't on the list.
    – user21608
    Jul 14, 2018 at 4:35
  • Every dictionary is going to have some disagreements about whether certain informal terms should be listed or not. GOODER has 2.1M Google hits but is not in the OSPD - an omission, or a correct exclusion? Reasonable people may disagree; the point of any word list is to settle those disagreements. Jul 14, 2018 at 13:47
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    @KennyLJ HEATY is unheard outside of South-East Asian English, and would not be considered a word by most native speakers. As it's an aspect of traditional Chinese medicine, anyone using it would almost certainly be using QI as well.
    – OrangeDog
    Sep 14, 2019 at 17:23
  • anyone using it would almost certainly be using QI as well. Actually, no. You are correct that HEATY is commonly used in Southeast Asia (in particular by Chinese Singaporeans and Malaysians). However, QI is not. Firstly, because QI (the concept when given as a single isolated word) is a less important or frequently used concept than heatiness (at least in those communities). Second, because QI is in Mandarin/pinyin form. Traditionally, if it were spelt in an English text, it would've been more often spelt as something like CHI or CH'I.
    – user21608
    Sep 17, 2019 at 2:09
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    Of course, Scrabble players know that the real reason QI was included in Scrabble dictionaries was just so that there'd be a two-letter word containing Q, rather than because those who constructed these dictionaries were concerned about the integrity of the English language.
    – user21608
    Sep 17, 2019 at 2:10

Answer: A solution that doesn't change the rules of the game is to provide all players with a list of all valid two-letter words. I have tried this methodology and it works fairly well for equalizing the playing field which is part of the subtext of the question.

Explanation: One of the underlying problems of your question is the line between casual Scrabble players and those that do (or have at some point) taken it more seriously. I was a casual player up until the point where I discovered an PC version of the game that had a training mode. It grilled you on two-letter word combinations until you had them all memorized and then started grilling you on three-letter word combinations (I never memorized all of those.)

After this, my Scrabble playing was never the same, nor was it strictly much of a contest anymore when playing against "casual" players. The trick wasn't playing one ridiculous two-letter word, it was find a way to play one long word alongside another with 4 or 5 two-letter words mixed in, making use of several that you would dub ridiculous.

The reason providing the word list works well is because you are really only helping with a small subset of lesser known two-letter words. This takes the advantage away from the non-casual players and forces them to rely on their other Scrabble skills...or at least forces them to start practicing their three-letter words.

The other consideration of this method is that all players will eventually have learned the two-letter words well enough to stop providing the word list as it has done its job and helped all players be on "equal" footing again.


I have bolded most of the two-letter words that I would have not known for sure were valid prior to "studying". Feel free to do your own count to see how many words you get help from if the list were in your hands during play.

Here is a link to site that talks about allowed two and three letter words. http://phrontistery.info/scrabble3.html Here is a club list that has definitions as well http://www.yak.net/kablooey/scrabble/2letterwords.html

Also, wanted to give credit to Steven Stadnicki as this answer mirrors his suggestion.

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    This is a good answer in its way, but if the question is 'How do you stop Scrabble-for-blood players having an advantage over the rest of us?', I'm not sure 'Turn everyone into Scrabble-for-blood players' is quite in the right spirit. In the games I play your bold words would not be valid, because we play with normal words not what SOWPODS has decreed. Dec 9, 2012 at 10:39
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    I think everyone learning (or having a copy of) the two-letter word list is a far cry from "Scrabble-for-blood". It is something more akin to a knowledge equalizer (a handicap). Although the term "Scrabble-for-blood" gives me a lot of good ideas for some fun game variants. I also think as soon as you start talking "normal" you have entered into @Johno's answer (which is quite valid) because you have entered the subjective zone. There are non-subjective ways to trim down that two-letter list. Dec 10, 2012 at 19:53
  • I like this solution, however in official scrabble tournaments there is usually a timer, which makes doing a lot of searching a disadvantage. Aug 22, 2013 at 19:38
  • We actually ruled AA invalid when we looked it up around '01 (and we already knew what it meant, that wasn't the problem). I guess it kinda depends on your dictionary.
    – Joshua
    Nov 26, 2017 at 0:54
  • @TimLymington, purgatory101 didn't say "for blood". "Scrabble-for-blood players" just means "good Scrabble players". I think the right spirit isn't to punish good players, but rather to enable weak players to improve. So let weaker players consult the book. This doesn't just involve 2-letter words. What if a player played TIARAED for a bonus and a "rest of us" player on a whim said "I don't care if it's in the book, it's not a word -- you can't just stick ED onto any noun"? That's not in the right spirit.
    – Rosie F
    Mar 25, 2018 at 11:57

Speaking as a bit of a two-letter word aficionado, I like the nonsensical colourfulness of the competitive Scrabble player's vocabulary, but given that you don't... there is absolutely nothing stopping you from using a (relatively) small and concise dictionary, of the kind that you can buy for cheap at any bookshop. These dictionaries are guaranteed not to have anything remotely off-the-wall in them, so should meet your purposes admirably.

I'm definitely against proposals such as "ban all two letter words". There's nothing intrinsically weirder about the word EE than the word MBAQANGA or QIVIUT, and I've played all of those in real Scrabble games. If you're going to ban two-letter words for being too arcane, then you'll just start having the same problems with 3-letter words that cross that line. (Why should EE be banned and not its plural, EEN?) No, just play with an ordinary concise edition of a dictionary, and if a word that's obviously fine turns out not to be in it, just don't challenge that word. If your opponent insists on abusing the challenge rule to chase off perfectly good words, then do the same back! And also start looking for someone new and more reasonable to play Scrabble with...

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    I think it's more the way knowing all the specifically two letter words facilitates playing words "in parallel" and how much that amplifies your scoring, that rubs the less competitive player the wrong way, than a notion that 'EE' is more or less "absurd" than 'EEN' :)
    – Affe
    Dec 5, 2012 at 0:52
  • @Affe, that's not really the vibe I'm getting from the OP's question. He says he's "okay with present day words" but not the "ridiculous" two-letter words like sounds of letters that reward "reading the official Scrabble dictionary". If it's just the competitive advantage of knowing lots of 2-letter words that the OP has a problem with, then I'd wholeheartedly recommend making the 2-letter word list a publicly available resource during games. But as I say it didn't sound to me like that was the problem! Dec 5, 2012 at 8:02
  • And you like the way they don't accept common words like zoomy, zen and bendy. Oct 3, 2014 at 7:11

You could have a house rule that you can only play a word if you can give (a reasonable close version of) the definition. That would eliminate the problem of players who memorise the word lists, but still leaves you with a general problem that somebody with a larger vocabulary will play a word his opponent hasn't heard of. I don't think that's soluble: it's a word game, after all, and it's the reason why 'a specific dictionary' is used in the first place. It also would permit EE, since the player has just placed two -well, what would you call them if not ees?

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    I spend a lot of time in Scrabble games giving fairly confident definitions of my obscure words... which turn out to be in the dictionary, but with completely different definitions! I'd get my comeuppance under your proposed house rule for sure :) Dec 5, 2012 at 10:56

I like Ryan Cavanaugh's suggestion of eliminating all/most 2 letter words. The board game Upwords does something similar to this by requiring that when changing a word (upward), you must use two tiles as a minimum.

You probably should blacklist all 2-letter words, and their 3-letter plurals, or at least the high value ones.



Then you either choose to whitelist any of those 2-letter words that everyone know the definition of to prove they aren't archaic.

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    Why is 'XI' any worse than, say, 'EM' or 'AA'? I would be willing to bet that more people know the definition of the former than either of the latter! The problem with Scrabble is that you really can't eliminate all 2-letter words because it changes the way the game plays on a fundamental level. You could play the game, but it would bear only a vague resemblance to Scrabble at that point. Dec 4, 2012 at 1:30
  • I think perhaps I would ban all two-letter nouns, except for pronouns.
    – palswim
    Dec 4, 2012 at 17:55
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    @palswim so you would ban MA, OX, PI, AX, ES… ? I would never play a scrabble game where any official two-letter word is banned. I agree with Steven, if any two-letter words are banned just because they are too "hardcore" you're no longer playing Scrabble. Two-letter words allow a cramped board to be opened up, tiles to be discarded without passing the turn, and big scoring parallel plays to be made. The list of official two-letter words is really not that long, if you're just starting to learn Scrabble and it's a casual game, I'd allow a cheat sheet.
    – ghoppe
    Dec 10, 2012 at 17:06
  • If you are going to exclude I think the key is excluding non-subjectively. You can trim the list down by cutting words by definition--letter words(ar, ef, el, es, ex), sound interjections(hm, mm, oi, oy, sh), greek letters (mu, nu, xi), etc. Anything less is subjective and is the same as saying you can only use words that all players know. Words like aa, ai and id have very definite meanings and are not archaic. Excluding all 2-letter words or based on point values, just feels like changing the game altogether. At that point, just take the tiles and make your own game--you might have more fun. Dec 10, 2012 at 20:45
  • "excluding non-subjectively … is the same as saying you can only use words that all players know." — Hit the nail on the head. I guess that's why the whole premise of this question kind of offends me. What's the point of playing if you want to limit "hardcore" players? It would be like saying "I'll play chess, but you can't move your queen more than three spaces."
    – ghoppe
    Dec 11, 2012 at 23:02

If it doesn't cause too many fights, and you're only playing casually, you could allow/disallow words democratically.

If a player uses "QI" and the other players decide it's "ridiculous", then they must take it back. If it's a word like "QI" which normally is valid (as opposed to "SPLUX" or "DEFKASARJ" which are not valid by any metric) you could allow the player to play a different word instead.

  • This is too subjective. Dec 4, 2012 at 23:55
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    @TheChaz Oh, it's incredibly subjective! But the OP mentioned that he's playing with friends. In lieu of a reduced word list (for which players would still need to "learn" what is and is not on it), this would be a quicker solution. That may be all that's needed for casual games.
    – Johno
    Dec 5, 2012 at 10:01

An alternative option might be finding a word frequency list file that works for you (and allowing players to check their word before playing). Given each such frequency list draws from a particular source to define commonality, such as movie subtitles, newspaper writings, textbooks, etc, it could be tough to find the perfect one.

But this English SE question offers a good start at finding one. One suggestion there is this Wiktionary link, from which you may be able to combine the lists and work from them reasonably? I doubt zax or jo or ka are on such lists... but you might also eliminate some more reasonable specialty words (I thought to suggest the SubtlexUS list, but found meteorological words like updraft and hodograph were disappointingly worse than even jo and ka... either indicating the shortcomings of the subtitle list or of any frequency list).

(You also might have to work up rules on word families/plurals/etc, which are left off many such frequency lists... but that may be as straightforward as allowing plurals/word forms indicated in a dictionary of words valid from the frequency list)

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