10 Words That Will Win You Any Game of Scrabble

iStock
iStock

Whether you consider winning at Scrabble a case of extreme luck or supreme spelling ability, here are 10 words that—if conditions are right—will help you trump any opponent.

1. OXYPHENBUTAZONE

Definition: An anti-inflammatory medication used to treat arthritis and bursitis.
Conditions: The theoretically highest-possible scoring word under American Scrabble play—as calculated by Dan Stock of Ohio—has never actually been played … and probably never will (unless you’re really, really lucky). That’s because it has to be played across three triple word score squares and built on eight already-played (and perfectly positioned) tiles.
Points: 1778

2. QUIZZIFY

Definition: To quiz or question.
Conditions: Not only will you need to draw the game’s only Q and Z tiles (there’s only one of each), but a blank tile, too (in place of the second Z). Play this verb as your first word across two triple word squares with the Z on a double letter score square and you’ve got the game’s most valuable eight-letter bingo.
Points: 419

3. OXAZEPAM

Definition: An anti-anxiety drug.
Conditions: All that stress will melt away if you can build on one existing letter, play across two triple word score squares, place one of the most valuable tiles (i.e. X or Z) on a double letter score square and net a 50-point bingo.
Points: 392

4. QUETZALS

Definition: The national bird of Guatemala as well as one of its monetary units.
Conditions: Placement is everything to score this whopper of a word: Building on one letter, use all seven letters on your rack for a 50-point bingo, with Q and S on triple word score squares and Z on a double letter score space.
Points: 374

5. QUIXOTRY

Definition: A romantic or quixotic idea or action.
Conditions: In 2007, Michael Cresta used an already-played R and all seven of his tiles across two triple word score squares to earn the most points ever on a single turn, which aided in a second record for the full-time carpenter: the highest-ever individual game score (830 points).
Points: 365

6. GHERKINS

Definition: A small pickle, made from an immature cucumber.
Conditions: In 1985, Robert Kahn paid tribute to the pickle at the National Scrabble Championship in Boston—using an E and R already on the board—to set a record for a non-bingo word score.
Points: 180

7. QUARTZY

Definition: Resembling quartz.
Conditions: Quartzy held the record for highest-ever single turn score until Quixotry nearly doubled its total in 2007. Play it across a triple word score square with Z as a double letter score, and get a 50-point bingo for using all seven letters on your rack.
Points: 164

8. MUZJIKS

Definition: A Russian peasant.
Conditions: On its own (with no bonuses or extra points), muzjiks is worth an impressive 29 points. But exhaust all of your tiles on your first turn to spell it, and you’ll earn more than four times that—which is what player Jesse Inman did at the National Scrabble Championship in Orlando in 2008 to earn the record for highest opening score.
Points: 126

9. SYZYGY

Definition: An alignment of three celestial bodies.
Conditions: Forget trying to pronounce it (though, for the record, it’s "SIZ-i-jee"). Instead, just remember how to spell it—and that it’s worth 21 points au naturel. You’ll need one blank tile to make up for the lack of Ys (there are only two in the game). For a higher total, land the Z on a double letter score square and the final Y on a triple word score square.
Points: 93

10. ZA

Definition: Slang term for pizza.
Conditions: Big words are great and all, but two-letter words can also score big—and be especially annoying to your opponent. Build on two As—one directly below, the other directly to the right of a triple letter square—to spell this two-letter delectable across and down.
Points: 62

13 Words That Changed From Negative to Positive Meanings (or Vice Versa)

grinvalds/iStock via Getty Images
grinvalds/iStock via Getty Images

One of the main reasons for the existence of slang is to keep the outsiders from understanding the insiders. Making up new words is one way to achieve this, but it’s not the only one. A favorite trick for the young to play on the old is to take an established word and completely change its connotations from bad to good. In recent decades we’ve seen sick, wicked, ill, and bad recruited to the “hearty positive endorsement” side. While some would lament the decline of language suggested by such wanton disregard for word meaning, this kind of meaning switch is nothing new. Here are 13 fine, upstanding words that long ago switched from negative to positive (or vice versa).

1. Fun

Fun was first a verb meaning "to cheat or hoax." It came from fon, an old word for "fool." It still retains some of that sense in “make fun of,” but now also means "a merry good time."

2. Fond

Fond also goes back to fon, and it once meant "foolish and weak-minded." It came to then mean over-affectionate in a negative, cloying way. Now it’s positive, but at root, being fond of something is basically being a fool for it.

3. Terrific

The root of terrific is terror, and it first meant terror-inducing. It then became an exaggerated intensifier (“terrifically good!” = so good it’s terrifying) and then a positive term all on its own.

4. Tremendous

Like terrific, tremendous has its roots in fear. Something tremendous was so terrible it caused trembling or shaking. It also became an intensifier (“tremendously good!”) before it went all the way positive.

5. Awe

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, awe originally referred to “immediate and active fear.” It then became associated with religious, reverential fear, and then to a feeling of being humbled at the sublime. While awful retains the negative sense, awesome took on the positive one.

6. Grin

To grin was to bare the teeth in a threatening display of anger or pain. It then became the term for a forced, fake smile, before settling into an expression of happiness.

7. Smart

Smart was first used in Old English to describe things that cause pain. Weapons, nails, and darts were smart. Shakespeare’s Henry VI has the phrase “as smart as lizards’ stings.” It took on connotations of sharpness, quickness, intensity, and, through smart, pain-causing words or wit came to stand for quick intelligence and fashionableness.

8. Egregious

Egregious was a positive word that turned negative. It used to mean "eminent and distinguished," but because people started using it sarcastically, it came to mean "bad and offensive."

9. Sad

Sad started with the meaning of "satisfied or sated," also sometimes "steadfast" or "firm." It then went from meaning "serious," to "grave," to "sorrowful."

10. Smug

Smug first meant "crisp, tidy, and presentable." A well-dressed person was smug in this way, and it later came to mean "self-satisfied and conceited."

11. Devious

Devious comes from de via, "off the way." It once meant "distant" or "off the road." It took on the meaning of wandering—there were devious comets, devious minnows—and, because to do wrong was to stray from the right path, it eventually came to mean "scheming and deceitful."

12. Facetious

To be facetious was once to have elegant, gracious, high style, and to be jokey and witty. It came from a Latin term for playful humorousness. It is still connected with a type of humor, but with an unproductive or annoying connotation.

13. Bully

Bully used to be a term of endearment for men or women. A bully could be a good friend or a sweetheart. It then came to stand for a swaggering braggart and than a coward who picks on others.

This list was first published in 2015 and republished in 2019.

22 Weird Jobs From 100 Years Ago

Metal Floss via YouTube
Metal Floss via YouTube

Before everyone started working in tech, people actually had their choice of eclectic and strange vocations that put food on their old-timey tables. Discover what lamplighters, lectores, and knocker-uppers did back in the day as Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy runs down 22 Weird Old Jobs from 100 Years Ago.

For more episodes like this one, be sure to subscribe here.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER