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Scrabble Terms at a Glance: An Essential Glossary

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Scrabble is a complex game with a long history. Over the past 70 years, Scrabble has worked its way into our culture as a mainstay of casual and competitive entertainment. All the while, its publishers and players have developed many terms to explain its various rules, techniques and components. Scrabble has dozens of phrases to learn, but some are more relevant than others. The following Scrabble glossary lists the most important Scrabble terms you should know.

Bingo

A bingo is what happens when a player uses all of the letter tiles on their rack in one turn. Using all seven letter tiles can be done by luck. Or, you can implement some Scrabble strategy to help you use them intentionally. Either way, playing a bingo earns you a welcomed 50-point bonus.

Blocking

When you’re blocking your opponent, you’re keeping them from playing a word that would net them a lot of points. You block by playing a word of your own. The word you play might not be a huge point earner for you, but it will do the job of keeping your opponent from reaching a score multiplier square or landing a bingo.

Bluffing

Bluffing is what you do when you purposefully play a phony word, one that isn’t in the Scrabble dictionary. While many people do play invalid words accidentally, a clever and strategic player may attempt to use their confidence, body language and other tactics to convince the opponent that the word is acceptable.

Challenge

You can challenge a word in Scrabble whenever you believe your opponent has played an invalid word. This is how you call someone’s bluff. If you challenge your opponent’s word before playing your next word, a word judge will determine whether the word is valid or not. Depending on the results of the challenge, you or your opponent lose a turn.

Closed Board

This is a game board with few valuable openings remaining on it. This typically happens late in a game. As you and your opponent struggle to take command of the board, you might leave each other with no paths toward high-value multiplier squares or ways to get bingos. The opposite of a closed board is an open board.

Extension Play

Also called an extension or extending, this is where you extend a word by adding two or more letters to it. This is a good strategy to use when your opponent plays a word without considering what you can add to it. An example would be if someone played “before.” If you add “hand” to the end of the word, you extend it to play “beforehand.” 

Fishing

Another term for this is “dumping.” Do this when you see a chance for a big play with the majority of the tiles on your letter rack. You “go fishing” by playing one or two tiles from your rack that aren’t as valuable to you at the moment. The hope is you’ll draw and replace those tiles with something better. That way, you can use your new tiles with your remaining tiles on your next turn for a big play. 

Hook

These are similar to extensions. The only difference is that a hook uses only one letter to create a new word. Pluralizing a word by adding an S to the end is the most common hook in Scrabble. Playing hooks is one of the most useful strategies in Scrabble. It’s also why it’s so important to memorize two-letter words. Knowing how to add one letter to word to take control of the board grants you many essential options.

Power Tiles

In Scrabble, not all letter tiles are made equal. Some tiles are simply more useful than others. And, some have much higher point values. The tiles in question are the four S’s, the four J’s, the Q, the X, the Z and the two blanks. Though some of them can be hard to play at times, these are the tiles every player hopes to draw from the tile bag. 

Rounds

You are not likely to hear this term outside of the tournament Scrabble scene. When playing in a Scrabble tournament, a round is a single game. Matches between players usually only consist of one game. On average, tournaments will see five or six rounds played per day.

Spread

This is another term that you likely won’t hear outside of your Scrabble club. The spread refers to the difference between each player’s score after a game. It is calculated by subtracting the loser’s score from the winner’s score. As an example, if the winner scored 321 points and the loser ended the game with 270 points, then the winner has a +51 spread and the loser has a -51 spread.

Turnover

Think of this as the opposite of fishing. This is what you do when you want to play as many of your tiles as possible to draw a lot of new tiles to use on your next turn. A turnover is usually when you play five or six tiles: It’s not so few tiles to be a normal play, but it's also not enough to score a bingo. Going for a turnover also gives you a better chance of drawing the power tiles.

Learn More Scrabble Essentials

Scrabble terminology might seem a bit excessive at first, but it is important to learn what all these Scrabble terms mean. You need to know what every aspect of the game is called so you can know what to do. Equally important, however, is knowing what not to do. That’s why you should also learn about the most common mistakes Scrabble players can make. If you’re aware of them, you’ll have a better chance of avoiding them.


Zac Pricener has been a content creator for the past eight years. He’s a bit of an all-around nerd, and he has a bad habit of working movie and TV show references into conversations whenever possible.

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