Twerk, emoji, facepalm. Ew.
Last year it would have been against the rules for casual Scrabble players to use any of those words. Not anymore. Merriam-Webster announced on Monday it had added more than 300 words to the latest edition of its official Scrabble dictionary.
“It means that in some ways the whole game is thrown open and made anew,” Emily Brewster, an associate editor and lexicographer at Merriam-Webster, said. “I think it’s especially exciting to people who play regularly.”
Scrabble, the word game played with lettered tiles, turns 70 this year and remains one of the most enduring and popular board games; it can also be played online. Last updated four years ago, the Scrabble dictionary contains more than 100,000 two- to eight-letter words. The new edition of the Scrabble dictionary is available online, and in hardcover and paperback. Versions for iOS, Android, and Kindle will be available this month.
New words are added to the Merriam-Webster Scrabble dictionary if they are found in a standard dictionary, in particular, Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. The new additions cannot include abbreviations, capitalized words or words containing hyphens or apostrophes.
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The word “ok,” for example, is playable now because it has been lowercased in Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary.
In the standard dictionary, “it used to be entered only as ‘OK’ or ‘okay,’” Ms. Brewster said, noting that the capitalization of “OK” prevented it from being used as a Scrabble word in the past.
Learning all of the eligible two- and three-letter words is one of the best-known ways to improve your Scrabble score, especially when the board starts getting full. So the dictionary’s new three-letter word, “zen,” and its new two-letter words, “ew” and “ok,” might be some of the most exciting additions for fans of the game.
“Anytime a two-letter word is added to the game, it definitely changes the strategy and the dynamics of playing,” said Stefan Fatsis, a competitive Scrabble player and the author of “Word Freak,” a book about the world of competitive Scrabble. “So ‘ok’ is a huge addition because it will be the first two-letter work that ends in a k.”
Veteran Scrabble players also know the value of learning words that start with q but don’t require a u. The new dictionary introduces “qapik,” which means “a monetary subunit of the manat” in Azerbaijan. (Fortunately for competitors, the game doesn’t require any knowledge of definitions, only spelling.) “Qapik,” however, is unlikely to get much play because there is only one q tile and only one k.
Q and k, along with j, x and z, are known as power tiles in Scrabble lingo because they carry more points, Mr. Fatsis said.
The Merriam-Webster Scrabble dictionary is the go-to source for those who play at home or at school, but official Scrabble tournaments use a different list that includes offensive words as well as words up to 15 letters long, said John Chew, a co-president of the North American Scrabble Players Association, which helped develop the Merriam-Webster Scrabble dictionary. The association’s official word list won’t be updated with the new Merriam-Webster additions until early next year, he added.
Aside from “ok,” the word “zen” was one of the most significant changes to the dictionary this year, Mr. Chew said, adding that he received more complaints about its exclusion than any other word.
Some people would show up at Scrabble club events only to be challenged on the word “zen,” then leave and never come back, Mr. Chew recalled. “Everyone has an emotional sense of possession over their own idiolect,” he said.
In the future, Mr. Chew said, he would like to see Merriam-Webster add the word “xed”: It is the past-tense of the verb “x,” meaning to cross out.
“I think I’ll wear them down over the next decade or so,” he said.