- Becki Groves
In Scrabble, words are valuable resources – the more you have, the greater your chances of success.
And while most of the 200,000 words in the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary are relatively useless in everyday life, expert Scrabble players dedicate hundreds of hours to memorizing them to increase their chances of winning.
There’s no better place for serious players to show off their expansive word knowledge than on the game’s biggest stage: the North American Scrabble Championship, the most recent of which wrapped up in New Orleans in July.
The five-day, 31-game event drew 400 of the top Scrabble players in the country, and their games featured some of the most bizarre words in the dictionary and from every corner of the English language.
Here are 11 of the craziest words played during the tournament:
“Atemoya” is a hybrid fruit originally grown in Central and South America. It’s a cross between the sweetsop – known as “ate” in Tagalog – and the cherimoya.
How to pronounce atemoya »
The word “wahine,” borrowed from the Maori language of New Zealand, refers to a Polynesian woman. In the mid-20th century, people starting using the word to describe female surfers.
The word is also used in the Hawaiian and Tahitian languages, where it’s spelled vahine – also acceptable in Scrabble.
How to pronounce wahine »
- Getty Images/David McNew
“Sthenia” is defined as “a condition of abnormal strength or vitality.”
It’s a great Scrabble word because of its common letters and its well-known “hook” – you can tack on an A to make “asthenia,” the loss of strength.
How to pronounce sthenia »
The “zorilla” is Africa’s answer to the skunk, even though it’s technically a member of the weasel family. Complicating things even further, its name comes from “zorro,” the Spanish word for fox.
Nomenclatural issues aside, “zorilla” is a great way to cash in on the valuable Z tile in Scrabble. Its alternate names, “zoril” and “zorille,” are also playable.
How to pronounce zorilla »
- Flickr Creative Commons
A “jaconet” is a lightweight cotton cloth used in clothing and bandages.
The word derives from Jagann?th, the name of a Hindu god and a former name of the Indian state where the fabric comes from. Interestingly, there’s a more common English word that bears the same root: juggernaut.
In Hinduism, a “yuga” is one of four epochs in the history of the universe. According to tradition, each yuga lasts millions of years, and we are currently living in the fourth yuga.
The word is often capitalized, but appears lowercase enough of the time for it to be included in the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary.
- Wikimedia Commons
“Kex” is one of the more obscure words in the Scrabble dictionary – it’s an archaic, dialectal British term for the dry stalk of a hollow-stemmed plant, such as the cow parsnip.
Kexes had several practical applications, from candles to archery bows, according to the citations in an 1878 edition of “Notes and Queries,” a language-oriented journal from London.
“Sixty or seventy years ago my grandfather, who was the first schoolmaster in Belper, used to make his lead pencils out of dry kex and molten lead,” reads one citation.
More importantly, it’s one of just 70 words in Scrabble that contains both K and X.
- Wikimedia Commons
“Antiweed,” “antipot,” and “antimarijuana” are all acceptable in Scrabble, as are hundreds of other “anti” words.
Some of the more common ones include “antigang,” “antinuke,” “antiporn,” and “antifur.” You can even be antired – that is, opposed to communism, not the color itself.
While these words are usually split by a hyphen, they’ve appeared unhyphenated in print enough times to warrant standalone entries in the dictionary.
“Menudo” is more than just the Puerto Rican boy band that launched the career of Ricky Martin. It’s also a spicy Mexican stew made from beef tripe.
- National Endowment for the Humanities
A “quipu” is a recording device that uses knots and colored strings to represent numbers, dates, and statistics.
To the Incas and other ancient Andean cultures who used them, quipus conveyed a wide range of meanings depending on the type of knots, the shade of the strings, and the position of the knots on each string.
Some historians believe quipus were also used in storytelling, with the knots corresponding to key episodes from traditional folktales and poetry.
Political junkies will be familiar with the word “bork,” meaning to defeat a candidate for public office through an organized campaign of harsh public criticism.
That’s the treatment Robert Bork got when President Ronald Reagan nominated him for a seat on the Supreme Court in 1987. Democrats successfully blocked Bork’s nomination by painting him as outside the constitutional mainstream.
Bork died in 2012, but his name lives on in political commentary and, of course, on the Scrabble board.