Foreign Words In Scrabble Dictionary

Why is it that there are many foreign words in the Scrabble dictionary but scrabble rules clearly state that no foreign words are allowed?

Many words that are from foreign countries are allowed i.e. South Africa, China, Hebrew, Albania, etc. Why are these foreign words allowed while some words such as QUO, from "status quo", are not allowed?

Many french words which are commonly used as everyday words which have crept into the English language are not allowed.

Also NIGHTIE is allowed, but NIGHTGOWN, which is defined in nightie, is not allowed?

This is a great question, and would require a very long answer to address it thoroughly. Here are some key points that should help...

As you point out, foreign words that have been thoroughly 'Anglicized' (i.e. 'turned into English') are allowed. That's why MOI (used facetiously as 'Me?'), was added to the international Scrabble dictionary recently.

The trouble is, declaring that a word has been Anglicized is a subjective business, so you won't get uniform agreement on particular cases. Also, the Official Scrabble Dictionary is based on a specific set of source dictionaries - so you can't just form an opinion based on the particular dictionary you happen to prefer.

To answer a couple of your specific questions, QUO* is not allowed because it is deemed to only occur as part of a phrase, rather than a word in its own right. Similarly you can't have FU*, since it only appears in the phrase KUNG FU. Having said that, the Dictionary Committee of WESPA (World English Scrabble Players Association) is currently considering the addition of 'phrasal parts' like these. Stay tuned on that one...

As for NIGHTGOWN, I suspect the reason it is not allowed is because it is hyphenated (though I haven't checked the source dictionaries just yet).

Again, different decisions made by different dictionaries, and different practices in different English-speaking countries, mean that some dictionary decisions will always look inappropriate to some people. The good thing is, dictionary committees are constantly reviewing the language and updating the Scrabble dictionary, so what is not allowed today, might be allowed tomorrow.

I hope that helps. I haven't had time to answer this important question in great depth, so please feel free to add a comment below this post if you'd like me to elaborate on anything.

All the best,

Comments for Foreign Words In Scrabble Dictionary

Click here to add your own comments

"Common usage" my foot!
by: Susan

I've read in a couple of different places that foreign words that have become common usage in English are in the dictionary and therefore allowable--but these words are NOT COMMON!!! I think it is ridiculous to allow all these foreign words in the game, but if one foreign word is allowed, then why not all of them?

Hi Susan, I agree that 'common usage' is not a very accurate description of the foreign words allowed in Scrabble (although I've probably used the term myself).

The real heart of the matter is that Scrabble players prefer to let professional lexicographers make the decisions, and the Scrabble dictionary is based on whether or not Collins, Websters, or whatever, have declared that a word is now Anglicized. The result sometimes defies common sense, but who gets to decide what is 'common' and what isn't? — Word Buff

Same problem
by: Karen

I play scrabble with an English-speaking group in Rome Italy. The thing that drives me nuts is that they have this official Scrabble dictionary which has TONS of foreign words in it, words that are not even used in phrases in English. They say that if the word is in the dictionary, it is okay. But I have always held to the no foreign word rule.

I just don't get how this Scrabble dictionary can contain so many foreign words!!

Click here to add your own comments

Return to Scrabble Help.