Scrabble Dictionary

Article about the four editions of the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary and the general phenomenon of the Scrabble dictionary.

The Scrabble Dictionary is a relatively new invention in the Scrabble world. Until 1987, even the most serious Scrabble players used standard dictionaries. What is the official scrabble players dictionary has not always been clear from one country to the next.

For instance, the official Scrabble dictionary in England was the Shorter Oxford Dictionary, at least until 1980. After 1980, the Chambers Dictionary was the official book of the British National Scrabble Championship.


The Official Scrabble DictionaryThe Chambers Dictionary came to be known as the Official Scrabble Words, or OSW. In the United States and Canada, competitive Scrabble used the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, of OSPD. By 1994 in Australia and 2001 in the United Kingdom, these two publications were amalgamated, producing the first truly official Scrabble dictionary in the English language. This book came to be known as SOWPODS, which is itself an amalgamation of the OSW and OSPD.

Despite the increasing standardization of official Scrabble words, this has not ended the controversy. Words continue to be added to the English language, often due to the rapid influence of the information technology. Also, arguments have raged over which words are appropriate for inclusion in an official Scrabble dictionary. Looking at the history of the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary is an interesting look at the Scrabble community itself.

The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary - First Edition

Until 1987, the official North American Scrabble dictionary was the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. With the growth of interest in Scrabble and a burgeoning Scrabble tournament circuit, the demand for a truly official Scrabble dictionary also grew.

At the time, Selchow and Righter owned the manufacturing rights to Scrabble in North America. Its CEO suggested an official dictionary cobbled together from the words of five respected word sources. These dictionaries were the 8th Edition of the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, the 2nd Edition of Webster's New World Dictionary, Funk & Wagnalls Dictionary of the English Language, the Random House College Dictionary and The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Any word included in one of these five dictionaries, so long as a word fit under the Scrabble rules, would be considered an official and usable Scrabble word.

Scrabble players proved to be more skilled at editing the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary than the editors. Within a couple of years, enough omissions and errata were found that Merriam-Websters considered a 2nd edition of the book.

The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary - 2nd Edition

From 1989 to 1991, a second edition of the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary was put together and published. The nineties saw the start of the so-called Information Age, when new words were being coined for many aspects of the computer information revolution. By the mid-1990's, demand was high for a new edition of the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary.

The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary - 3rd Edition

Another motivation was behind the Third Edition of OSPD. Judith Grad led a campaign to remove offensive words from the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary. Mrs. Grad found an all in the National Council of Jewish Women, who saw no place for so-called obscene words in a game of Scrabble.

Therefore, the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary Third Edition was a "bowdlerized" version of the dictionary. Bowdlerized refers to an English doctor of the early 19th century, who produced censored versions of Shakespeare and the Bible, with all references to sex removed from the texts. It was later learned that Dr. Bowdler only lent his name to the censored texts. Bowdler's sister was the censor, though it was considered unseemly for a woman of the times to admit she understood the sexual references in literature.

This led to a hailstorm of controversy, as many Scrabble players believed their game was no place for a moral campaign. The continuing controversy may have held up the production of a Fourth Edition of the OSPD.

The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary - 4th Edition

A full 9 years after the 3rd Edition reached print, the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary Fourth Edition made it into stores. Like the 3rd Edition, the 4th Edition OSPD was edited of possibly offensive words. Some critics have complained that the book's editors do not point out this fact on the cover.

Many players continue to use the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary Second Edition as a statement against moral censorship. Others prefer to use the 2005 OSPD Edition, since it contains ten more years worth of words. Though the Merriam-Websters people and Hasbro have continued to forge a consensus on an official Scrabble dictionary, such a consensus seems as far away as ever in 2007.

The Official Club and Tournament Word List

The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary is not the official book used at sanctioned tournaments in North America. Tournaments generally use a document known as the Official Club and Tournament Word List. The OCTWL is used at tournaments in the United States, Canada, Israel and Thailand.

The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary does not claim to be the official tournament standard. Instead, it claims to be "ideal of family and school use". In other words, the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary markets not to tournament Scrabble players, but instead to the family and children market.

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