About the Word Lists

The Lists

There are 9 words lists of various sizes and types.

Middle English: 56,600+ words

Shakespeare: 21,300+ words

Shakespeare with Contractions: 24,500+ words

British: 276,100+ words; similar to Official Scrabble® Words

British with Contractions: 276,400+ words

General: 109,500+ words; similar to The Official Scrabble® Players Dictionary

General with Contractions: 109,600+ words

American: 187,100+ words; similar to Official Tournament and Club Word List

American with Contractions: 187,400+ words

Cotton English word lists total: 330,800+.

Notes for All Lists

The exact number of words in each list can be found by choosing the menu item "Game | Word Lists".

In some Cotton words games "a" and "i" are acceptable 1-letter words.

"Proper" nouns, such as George, Scranton and Subaru are not included unless they are also "non-proper" nouns, such as bertha, benjamin, berlin, bob, carl and rose.

There are no hyphenated words in the lists, although the constituent words are. So you won't find air-conditioned but you will find air and conditioned.

Generally, acronyms (DNA, LSD, CPU) and abbreviations are excluded.

The preferred spelling of some words is with an accented letter (for example, blasé). They are included in the word list without the accented letter (blase) because they are included in standard dictionaries that way. Professional lexicographers allow for the spelling without the accent.

Only the "with Contractions" word lists contain contractions (such as can't and would've).

There are no possessives (such as tomorrow's and trains') in the lists.

All games can be played with the letters in the words in their usual forward order (cat, house, computer) or backward order (tac, esuoh, retupmoc).


General, American and British Lists

The General, American and British word lists are based on a number of thoroughly-researched, public-domain documents, such as the ENABLE (Enhanced North American Benchmark Lexicon) and ABLE (Alternate British Lexicon) lists and supplements, to which additions, deletions and corrections were made.

Shakespeare List

There is some dispute about which works Shakespeare wrote or co-wrote. Authorities also disagree about how to restore corrupted passages. Therefore, no claim is made that the Shakespeare lists are complete or accurate.

The Shakespeare lists are based on the works included in the complete works of Shakespeare by Grady Ward available from the Gutenberg Project: 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV, 1 Henry VI, 2 Henry VI, 3 Henry VI, A Lover's Complaint, A Midsummer Night's Dream, All's Well That Ends Well, Antony and Cleopatra, As You Like It, Coriolanus, Cymbeline, Hamlet, Henry V, Henry VIII, Julius Caesar, King John, King Lear, Love's Labour's Lost, Macbeth, Measure for Measure, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, Pericles Prince of Tyre, Richard II, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, Sonnets (without dedication), The Comedy of Errors, The Merchant of Venice, The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Passionate Pilgrim, The Phoenix and the Turtle, The Rape of Lucrece (without dedication), The Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Winter's Tale, Timon of Athens, Titus Andronicus, Troilus and Cressida, Twelfth Night, Venus and Adonis.

Shakespeare Notes

Only the forms of words that actually appear in the works of Shakespeare are included in the lists. So abandon, baffle, bagpipe and balcony are included but not abandons (or abandoning), baffles, bagpipes or balconies.

The lists do not include non-English words, such as ecolier, impudique and vocativo.

The lists do include "mispronounced" English word such as pless and fartuous.

Middle English

The current Middle English word list is only a first step and will be expanded in the future if users express an interest in it. There are 56,000+ plus words but the number of core words is much smaller due to the many varied spellings. Some obvious words (such as "sins") are not included because they don't occur in the sources.

The words in the Middle English word list were collected from (and checked against) various sources:

(1) editions of works, such as The Canterbury Tales, Sir Gawayne and the Green Knight, Le Morte Darthur (Thomas Malory), Le morte Arthur (ms. Harley 2252), The Owl and the Nightingale, Everyman and The Pearl;

(2) dictionaries and glossaries, such as A. L. Mayhew and Walter W. Skeat, A Concise Dictionary of Middle English (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1888) and J.R.R. Tolkien, A Middle English Vocabulary (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1922);

(3) and online sources, such as Index to the Spellings in Chaucer's Works (Riverside Edition) (The President and Fellows of Harvard College, 2008), http://sites.fas.harvard.edu/~chaucer/spelling.htm, A Glossary for the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer (Riverside Edition) (The President and Fellows of Harvard College, 2008), http://sites.fas.harvard.edu/~chaucer/glossar.htm and Middle English Dictionary (The Regents of the University of Michigan, 2001), http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/med/ and Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse, (The Regents of the University of Michigan, 2001),http://quod.lib.umich.edu/c/cme/.

Notes for Middle English

Editors standardize spelling in various ways. Thus, different editions of a work may have different spellings for the same word: tespyen, t'espyen and to espyen. And "truth" is variously spelled soth, sothe, sooth, soothe, suth and suþe. As illustrated below we have included as many spellings as possible; thus, you are not at a disadvantage because you know a word from a particular source.

As with the other word lists only the constituent words of most hyphenated words are included in the word list; for example, hunger and bitten for hunger-bitten, lyp and labour for lyp-labour, roister and doister for roister-doister and wange and toothe for wange-toothe. For other words with common hyphenated prefixes, the word without the hyphen and the two constituent words are included. A few examples:

WordWithout HyphenTwo Words
a-beddeabeddea, bedde
be-drenchenbedrenchenbe, drenchen
bi-smarebismarebi, smare
i-blessediblessedi, blessed
un-digneundigneun, digne
under-standenunderstandenunder, standen
up-breidenupbreidenup, breiden
y-falleyfallefalle (not y)
ye-ferenyeferenye, feren

Some editions show some infinitives as infinitives (to amende, to espyen), contractions (t'amende, t'espyen) and as a single word (tamende, tespyen). In such cases to, amende, espyen, tamende and tespyen are included in the word list.

Some editions show the article the joined with another word as a contraction (th'angel) or as one word with the e elided (thoffice). The and the other word are included in the word list (angel and office) and the contraction without the apostrophe (thangel).

When different editors spell the same word beginning with a j or and i, both versions are included in the word list: for example, joyful and ioyful and jalousye and ialousye.

U and v are sometimes used interchangeably as both vowels and consonants. We have added "u" version of many words that use "v" and vice versa, especially when the modern spellings uses one or the other; for example, we have added overtake for ouertake and undertake for vndertake.

Some Windows computers cannot display the yogh character (ȝ) and some Windows fonts do not include it. Therefore, the number 3 is used for the yogh character; for example, chyrcheȝarde is included as chyrche3arde.

Eths and thorns were used inconsistently by Middle English writers. As do some compiler/editors (such as J.R.R. Tolkien) we have replaced eths (ð) with thorns (þ). For example, ðuhte is included as þuhte, hweðere as hweþere and bliðe as bliþe. Thus, players do not have to remember spelling variations that have little significance.

Letters with diacritics are included without the diacritics -- example, "e" for "ë" and ligatures are included as two letters -- example, "ae" for and "æ".

Notes for Contractions Lists

The letter pools for these three lists contain one apostrophe and only eleven E's instead of twelve. Thus, one of the most common letters worth only one point has been replaced by the much rarer apostrophe worth twelve points.

Words in these lists may contain one (wouldn't) or two (wouldn't've) apostrophes. A blank tile can be used for one of them.

Some words with two apostrophes ending in ve could be written two ways. For example, the phrase would not have with contractions might be written as two words (wouldn't 've) or one word with two apostrophes(wouldn't've). In these cases both are included; that is wouldn't, 've and wouldn't've are in the list.

Some words are spelled differently than if they were true contractions: for example, one is contracted to 'un not 'ne ("The young 'un is growing like a weed.")

The Shakespeare with Contractions list includes all contractions from the list of works above meeting the criteria above. The other contractions lists include about 100 common contractions.

See also

Obscene and Offensive Words

Choosing a Word List

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