Q without U

A Survival Guide

The 'Q without U' combo is almost guaranteed to raise the clenched fist of a beginning Scrabble player. Why? Well, for one thing, just like that video says, the Q needs a U to really do its thing. But that doesn't really explain why this situation is so bad. Here are some good reasons...


A QAT Picnic in Yemen
Photo courtesy of Ahron de Leeuw
Firstly, a Q that stays on your rack move after move, stubbornly awaiting a friendly U, severely limits your options. Playing with a six-letter rack is much, much more restrictive than a seven-letter rack.

Secondly, if the Q remains on your rack when your opponent uses up the last of their tiles, you will be hit with a double whammy of 20 penalty points! Many a Scrabble game has been lost by less than that.

For these reasons, even though the Q can sometimes score well, it is generally best to play it off as quickly as possible, even if it means taking a mediocre score.


100 SHEQALIM
Photo courtesy of RonAlmog
Fortunately, the Scrabble dictionary is rather generous when it comes to the Q without U rack, and it is usually possible to play off the Q quickly for a reasonable score, and occasionally a high one, without waiting for that elusive U. This has especially been the case since the word QI was introduced into the game in the 1990s. But there are plenty of others too.

To help you avoid the dreaded Q-stick, this page lists every possible word containing a Q that is not followed by a U (although a handful, like UMIAQ, have a U elsewhere in the word). Since there are only 84 'Q without U' words in total, most expert players learn all of them before too long.

Let's start with the 'Q without U' words containing 2 to 5 letters. These are the ones you'll come across frequently, and should know inside out. Here they are...


Next come the 'Q without U' words containing 6 letters. You won't see them played very often, except as plurals of fives, but they will occasionally make or break a game.

I once won an important game by extending QI to QIGONG on an otherwise closed board, and another by scoring 60+ points for the unusual YAQONA. Don't be one of those players who finds out QWERTY is a word after you had the very rare opportunity of playing it.


The next list of 7 to 8 letter U-less Q words brings us into bingo territory. Again, such plays are rare, but most top players will have their very satisfying INQILAB story to tell.

Here's a real example. It comes from Round 13 of the 2009 World Scrabble Championships, in which two of the best players in the world faced each other - David Boys and Nigel Richards. On move 3, David faces a rather unpleasant looking rack. Think about what you would play in his situation, and then click on the board to see what David played...

Q Without U Rack from 2009 WSC

Q Without U Board from 2009 WSC

With the 9 to 10 letter 'Q without U' words we are entering the regime of once-in-a-lifetime plays. This would normally recommend against bothering with these words, if it weren't for the fact that there are so few of them it seems silly not to memorise the final 11.

I know of at least one player who got to extend QI to QINGHAOSU in a tournament game, and I've had Quackle (a free Scrabble game) respond to my opening play of DI with TZADDIQIM. So it can happen. Provided you've devoted a few minutes to this list of course...


And finally, just to convince you that these 'Q without U' words are not made up, here are all the definitions in alphabetical order...

Q-without-U Word Meanings

BUQSHA
a monetary unit of Yemen [n -S]
BUQSHAS
pl BUQSHA [n]
BURQA
a coverall worn by Muslim women, also BURKA, BOORKA, BOURKHA [n -S]
BURQAS
pl BURQA [n]
FAQIR
a religious ascetic in India, also FAKIR, FAKEER, FAQUIR [n -S]
FAQIRS
pl FAQIR [n]
INQILAB
in India, revolution [n -S]
INQILABS
pl INQILAB [n]
MBAQANGA
South African music [n -S]
MBAQANGAS
pl MBAQANGA [n]
MUQADDAM
an Indian leader, also MOKADDAM [n -S]
MUQADDAMS
pl MUQADDAM [n]
NIQAB
a type of veil worn by some Muslim women [n -S]
NIQABS
pl NIQAB [n]
QABALA
a Jewish doctrine based on hidden meanings in sacred texts, also CABALA, CABBALA, CABBALAH, KABALA, KABBALA, KABBALAH, QABALAH [n -S]
QABALAH
a Jewish doctrine based on hidden meanings in sacred texts, also CABALA, CABBALA, CABBALAH, KABALA, KABBALA, KABBALAH, QABALA [n -S]
QABALAHS
pl QABALAH [n]
QABALAS
QABALA, a Jewish doctrine based on hidden meanings in sacred texts, also CABALA, CABBALA, CABBALAH, KABALA, KABBALA, KABBALAH, QABALAH [n]
QABALISM
a sect based on qabala, also KABALISM, KABBALISM, CABALISM, CABBALISM [n -S]
QABALISMS
pl QABALISM [n]
QABALIST
someone who finds hidden meanings in sacred texts, also CABALIST, KABALIST, KABBALIST [n -S]
QABALISTIC
relating to QABALA [a]
QABALISTS
pl QABALIST [n]
QADI
a Muslim judge, also CADI, KADI [n -S]
QADIS
pl QADI [n]
QAID
a Muslim leader, also CAID [n -S]
QAIDS
pl QAID [n]
QAIMAQAM
a Turkish officer, also KAIMAKAM [n -S]
QAIMAQAMS
pl QAIMAQAM [n]
QALAMDAN
a Persian writing-case, also KALAMDAN [n -S]
QALAMDANS
pl QALAMDAN [n]
QANAT
an underground water tunnel [n -S]
QANATS
pl QANAT [n]
QASIDA
an Arabic poem of praise or mourning [n -S]
QASIDAS
pl QASIDA [n]
QAT
an evergreen shrub, also KAT, KHAT [n -S]
QATS
pl QAT [n]
QAWWAL
a male singer of qawwali [n -S]
QAWWALI
devotional Sufi music [n -S]
QAWWALIS
pl QAWWALI [n]
QAWWALS
pl QAWWAL [n]
QI
a life force in Chinese medicine, also KI [n -S]

(QI is not only the most frequently played Q without U word, but is in fact the most frequently played word in tournament Scrabble!)

QIBLA
the direction Muslims face when praying, also KIBLAH, KEBLAH [n -S]
QIBLAS
pl QIBLA [n]
QIGONG
a deep breathing exercise [n -S]
QIGONGS
pl QIGONG [n]
QINDAR
an Albanian currency, also QINTAR, QUINTAR [n QINDARS or QINDARKA]
QINDARKA
pl QINDAR [n]
QINDARS
pl QINDAR [n]
QINGHAOSU
a chemical compound extracted from the plant artemisia [n]
QINGHAOSUS
pl QINQHAOSU
QINTAR
an Albanian currency, also QINDAR, QUINTAR [n -S]
QINTARS
pl QINTAR [n]
QIS
pl QI [n]
QIVIUT
wool of the arctic musk-ox [n -S]
QIVIUTS
pl QIVIUT [n]
QOPH
a Hebrew letter, also KOPH [n -S]
QOPHS
pl QOPH [n]
QORMA
a mild Indian curry, also KORMA [n -S]
QORMAS
pl QORMA [n]
QWERTIES
pl QWERTY [n]
QWERTY
the usual keyboard layout [n QWERTIES or QWERTYS]
QWERTYS
pl QWERTY [n]
SHEQALIM
pl SHEQEL [n]
SHEQEL
an ancient unit of weight and money, also SHEKEL [n SHEQELS or SHEQALIM]
SHEQELS
pl SHEQEL [n]
SUQ
a marketplace in the Middle East [n]
SUQS
pl SUQ
TALAQ
n a form of divorce [n -S]
TALAQS
pl TALAQ [n]
TRANQ
a drug that tranquilizes, also TRANK [n]
TRANQS
pl TRANQ
TSADDIQ
a person of extreme piety in Judaism, also TSADDIK, TZADDIQ, TZADDIK, ZADDIK, ZADDICK [n]
TSADDIQIM
pl TSADDIQ
TSADDIQS
pl TSADDIQ
TZADDIQ
a person of extreme piety in Judaism, also TZADDIK, TSADDIQ, TSADDIK, ZADDIK, ZADDICK [n]
TZADDIQIM
pl TZADDIQ
TZADDIQS
pl TZADDIQ
UMIAQ
an open Eskimo boat, also UMIAC, UMIAK, UMIACK, OOMIAC, OOMIAK, OOMIACK [n]
UMIAQS
pl UMIAQ
WAQF
a donation for pious purposes in Islam, also WAKF [n -S]
WAQFS
pl WAQF [n]
YAQONA
the Fijian name for kava [n -S]
YAQONAS
pl YAQONA [n]

And before you go, make sure you grab a copy of this cool freebie...

Word Buff's FREE Downloadable
Mini Scrabble Dictionary

As part of my effort to compile a free library of Scrabble cheats, I've put together a 39 page mini online Scrabble dictionary containing all the short Scrabble words. As I explain in the book's introduction, the short words are by far the most important ones to learn first.

Here's a snippet...

I've carefully highlighted which words are from which dictionaries to help you avoid learning phonies. I've put a downloadable copy in the Members Area. If you'd like to get your hands on it right now...

Just tell me where to send it!



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