General information

INFO: A word to play is in CAPITALS. Letters already on the board are shown as the S here: WORM(S). Premium Score squares: DL = Double letter: TL = Triple letter: DW = Double Word: TW = Triple Word. The blanks have no score letter on the Top right! A bingo (using all 7 of your letters) gets +35.
Useful word lists are in the first post "ALL MY TIPS. This is the post to read first" and on some other posts. I welcome comments and suggestions.
Had a great play, score or a move you think should have been allowed? Take a screen shot and post it somewhere (Picasa?). Send me the link.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Many times people post these questions:

Why isn’t “DISHBA” (BTW non-existant! HB) or some other word, allowed?

It’s in the Scrabble word list/ English Words 3rd Edition. So why is it refused in WWF?
Before you go any further update your version to 4.05 or later. It now tells you which words are not accepted and that helps a lot.

Let’s start with some facts especially if you are in the numbers game:


The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 obsolete words. As of 24 March 2011, the editors had completed the third edition of the OED from M to Ryvita. With approximately 600,000 words, the Oxford English Dictionary is the longest official dictionary.

On September 21, 2007 16,000 words lost their hyphens in a 6th edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Bumble-bee is now bumblebee, ice-cream is ice cream and pot-belly is pot belly (2 words now) etc.

The Collins Essential English Dictionary contains over 190,000 English words, references, phrases and examples.

The Collins Pocket English Dictionary has Over 30,000 English words and references.


The OFFICIAL Scrabble WORD LIST; SOWPODS, has about 270,000 words.

The OFFICIAL Words With Friends WORD LIST; ENABLE* has about 170,000 words.

*WWF has taken out some “not very nice” words and added some others. When I refer to ENABLE, it is the modified list.

In the ENABLE word list many words have 16 letters or more therefore unplayable on a WWF (or Scrabble) board! 

As an aside, the difference between Scrabble and WWF  is that Scrabble, when played in competition, does not allow help from word lists and an incorrect word played (if challenged) is removed and the player has lost his turn. I would think competition level Scrabble players will not play WWF and that means half the words in ENABLE word list will never be played by a WWF player unless he uses a word finder! 

Thus the useable number of words in the list is about 80,000!

Which now beg the questions:
How many words need the list contain to satisfy 98% of WWF players?
How many words in the list does any one person know?

It’s an almost impossible question to answer satisfactorily, because it all depends what you mean by word and by vocabulary (or even English).

What I mean by  a word sounds obvious, but it’s not. Take a word like CLIMB. The rules of English allow you to generate the forms climbs, climbed, climbable, and climbing, as well as the nouns climb and climber (and their plurals climbs and climbers). All 7 are in ENABLE

To take a famous case, the entry for SET in the Oxford English Dictionary runs to 60,000 words. It appears ONCE in ENABLE. The noun alone has 47 separate senses listed. Are all these distinct words? That is the principal difference between a dictionary and a word list.

And in a wider sense, what do you include in your list of words? Do you count all the regional variations of English? Or slang? Dialect? Family or private language? Proper names and the names of places? (definately not in WWF).

The biggest dictionary of them all, the OED,  has more than 400,000 entries — do you count them all as words? And what about informal and formal names for living things? The wood louse is known in Britain by many local names — tiggy-hog, cheeselog, pill bug, chiggy pig, and rolypoly among others. Are these all to be counted as separate words? And, to take a more specialist example, is Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the formal name for bread yeast, to be counted as a word (or perhaps two)? If you say yes, you’ve got to add another couple of million such names to the English-language word count. And what about medical terms, such as syncytiotrophoblastic or holoprosencephaly, that few of us ever encounter? They are of course more than 15 letters long so of no use anyway.

The other difficult term is vocabulary. What counts as a word that somebody knows? Is it one that a person uses regularly and accurately? Or perhaps one that will be correctly recognized — say in written text — but not used? Or perhaps one that will be understood in context but which the person may not easily be able to define? This distinction between what linguists call active and passive vocabularies is hard to measure, and it skews estimates.

The problem doesn’t stop there. English speakers not only know words, they know word-forming elements, such as the ending -phobia for some irrational fear. So a FLYPHOBIA  in speech is no problem but may not exist in any dictionary/wordlist. 

Assessing the size of the vocabulary of an individual is just as problematical. Take Shakespeare: you’d think it would be easy to assess his vocabulary. We have the plays and sonnets and we just have to count the different words in them (according to the American Heritage Dictionary, there are 884,647 of them, made up of 29,066 distinct forms, including proper names). But estimates of Shakespeare’s vocabulary vary from about 18,000 to 25,000 in various books, because writers have different views about what constitutes a distinct word.

It’s common to see figures for an individuals vocabulary quoted such as 10,000-12,000 words for a 16-year-old, and 20,000-25,000 for a college graduate.
Perhaps a better average for a college graduate might be around 60,000 active words. But this method of assessing vocabulary counts dictionary headwords only; it would be possible to multiply it several-fold to include different senses, inflected forms, and compounds.
So let's go back to the moan:  Why does it say “Sorry that is not a valid word”
Possible answers are:

1. The word is NOT in the ENABLE word list as modified by Words With Friends..

2.  It is a word in general use but is considered by WWF as offensive (R-Rated)
*Note that the deletion of R-rated words is very hap-hazard and many people say if that word “aaaa” is not allowed how come I could then play this word “bbbb” which is worse!
c. It is slang that has not yet been accepted into general usage.
d. It is usually spelt with a capital letter, like Texas, and is therefore a Proper Noun. Some words like GOD can be spelt as “God” or “god” and can be an adjective as well. “Ra” is not accepted as it is only the (proper) name of an Egyptian god and is thus always capitalized.
e. Is really an abbreviation or an acronym, like NATO, USA

2. The word IS in the ENABLE word list as modified by Words With Friends but your version of WWF is not the latest and your word list has not been updated. The word list is in the App and with each revision the list changes.

3. ANOTHER WORD is inadvertently formed and it is THAT word that is not accepted.   (It happens fairly often reading through WWF posts)

4. You might place a valid word and get “That is not a valid emplacement” That means that there is a stray letter on the board. Just press recall and try your word again.

A word about the word list ENABLE which has about 173,000 words. Then WWF adds new words or deletes offensive ones from that list. SOWPODS, which is the official Scrabble word list, has about 100,000 more words. I have not checked but I surmise that the SOWPODS extra words are even more obscure and are most unlikely to be used.
These word lists are not dictionaries but lists and have all Proper Nouns, acronyms and slang taken out, so don’t go checking the online dictionaries as they will give the OK even when the word is not acceptable.

Post a screen shot if you have had a word refused and if you are sure it is in the ENABLE word list INCLUDING the latest additions of August 2011 that you can see here:

*To post a screen shot send it to  or Picasa  or  Flikr or something similar. They are all free services. Then post the link.


  1. Henry,
    Thanks for this discussion. Recognizing the effort you put into this blog, I hesitate to make this comment: white characters on a black background are more difficult to read than the usual black on wHie. This is even more true when, as in the URL above, the characters are in grey against the black background.

    I should say this is really only an issue on the screen of my iPhone. It does make for a distinctive appearance, and on a larger screen is not a problem, but WwF is a smartphone phenomenon, after all.

  2. Please correct the spelling of 'definitely' above. :)