Scrabble Dictionary - The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary

An in depth article about the four popular editions of the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary and a discussion of the phenomenon of the Scrabble dictionary as we know it.

The Scrabble Dictionary is a pretty new invention and up until 1987, players referenced standard dictionaries to look up words for the game. However, the official Scrabble dictionary will vary per country, so players will come across different sources.

In England, the Shorter Oxford Dictionary served as the Scrabble dictionary until 1980. Following that time, the Chambers Dictionary became the book of choice for the British National Scrabble Championship.


The mentioned Chambers Dictionary soon became known as OSW, meaning Official Scrabble Words. In the US and in Canada, players used the OSPD, or the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary. In 1994, Australia offered the first true official dictionary for Scrabble in English and the UK followed suit in 2001. This single book quickly became known as the SOWPODS, which is a combination of the OSW and the OSPD.

Even though there are standardised dictionaries, there is still much controversy regarding words lists and usage. Words are always being added to the English language, making it almost impossible to keep a Scrabble dictionary up to date. There are also many arguments that pertain whether words are appropriate for being an entry in a Scrabble dictionary. Looking at the history of the OSPD, players can look right into the history of the game itself.

The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary - First Edition

The official dictionary used in North America until 1987 was the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. However, as the interest in Scrabble grew, there was a need for a true Scrabble dictionary that offered official words.

At this time, Selchow and Righter had all of the rights to manufacturing in North America. The CEO of the company made a suggestion to combine five different word sources into one single book. The five sources included 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 and all words that were in these dictionaries would be considered to be an official word when playing Scrabble.

Unfortunately, Scrabble players and fans seemed to be a bit more skilled at editing the dictionaries than the editors themselves. This is why omissions and errors lead to the 2nd edition of the Merriam-Webster Scrabble Dictionary.

The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary - 2nd Edition

The 2nd edition covered the years of 1989 through 1991. As the 1990s became known as the Information Age, new words were being formed and coined for different aspects of the computer world. This meant that the 2nd edition once again had too many omissions and there was a new demand for an updated dictionary to be published.

The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary - 3rd Edition

There was one other motivation behind the third edition of the OSPD. A campaign was being led by Judith Grad, who stated that obscene words should not be allowed in the game of Scrabble. With this in mind, the third edition was actually a “bowlderised” version, which refers to a doctor from the early 19th century who reproduced versions of Shakespeare the contained no sexual references at all. From then on, censored texts were referenced as being Bowlderised, named after Dr. Bowlder.

This lead to some major controversy amongst Scrabble players and editors. Many players believe that the game is not a place for any moral campaigning to be done. The ongoing controversy is thought to be one of the reasons the publication of the 4th Edition of the OSPD was delayed.

The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary - 4th Edition

After 9 years of referencing the 3rd edition, the 4th edition was released. Like the previous edition, there were some possibly offensive words included. There are some critics that continue to complain that the editors of the book refuse to point this out on the cover, warning all users.

There are a number of serious Scrabble players who continue to use the 2nd edition of the book to make a statement protesting moral censorship. Some prefer the 2005 version of the book, seeing as it contains more than 10 years worth of usable words. At this time, censorship was still an issue and Merriam-Webster and Hasbro continue to try to come up with a version that will please everyone, though this has yet to happen.

The Official Club and Tournament Word List

When playing in tournaments in North America, the OSPD is not the official book that is used. Instead, tournaments refer to the Official Club and Tournament Word List, called the OCTWL, which is used at events that are held in the US, Israel, Thailand and Canada.

The current version of the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary is not an official tournament standard and the book does not claim to be such. Instead, it is known for being ideal for family and school use or by novice or casual players. The OSPD does not market the book to any tournament player, but focuses on those who play the game for fun and not as a competitive game.

Disclaimer: This website is intended for information and entertainment purposes only. We are in no way affiliated with the SCRABBLE® brand and registered trademark. These intellectual property rights belong to Hasbro, Inc. in which we are not affiliated.

Copyright © - All Rights Reserved