What was Scrabble’s Original Name?


Great things can come out of hard times — take Scrabble. During the Great Depression, architect Alfred Mosher Butts couldn’t find work. So he decided to create a board game that required the vocabulary skills of anagrams and crossword puzzles but also had an element of chance. Butts hand-drew the original board with architectural drafting equipment. He also hand-lettered the tiles. He studied the front page of the New York Times, the New York Herald Tribune, and The Saturday Evening Post to calculate the frequency of each letter in the alphabet and then came up with a point value system. At first, the game was named Lexiko. Then he called it Criss-Cross Words. Butts’ story was not one of success from the start. He tried and failed to sell Criss-Cross Words to game manufacturers. Milton Bradley rejected the game in 1933. James Brunot came on board as a business partner, and renamed the game Scrabble, which means “to scratch or scrape” and “to scrawl.” (On the topic of game names, have you ever wondered what “sudoku” literally means? Here’s the answer.) Then Butts and Brunot set up a Scrabble factory in an abandoned schoolhouse in Connecticut. Times were tough until Macy’s began selling the game in the early 1950s. Soon people around the country were eager to test their vocabulary skills with the game.

Do you consider yourself a Scrabble whiz? Test yourself with these Scrabble facts.

  • What is the OSPD4? The OSPD4 is The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, Fourth Edition.
  • How many two-letter words are in the OSPD4? There are 96 two-letter words. The official Scrabble site encourages players who want to improve their scores to begin by memorizing these two-letter words.
  • Do you want to get caught brailing? Absolutely not! Brailing is Scrabble terminology for feeling the surface of a tile with your hand in the bag.
  • At Scrabble tournaments how many points is the average? The experts average 330-450 points per game.

On a related note, learn the original name of crossword puzzles, here.


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  5. John Wood -  August 1, 2012 - 6:10 am

    These all suggestions are so valuable. I have got so many things by you about the scrabble. One of my friends told me about: http://www.scrabblecheats.com/
    for improving my skills.

  6. wordjunkie -  April 6, 2011 - 4:05 pm

    @ THARUN: I’m not entirely surprised. Singapore’s education statistics have been leaps and bounds ahead of ours for years. That is why elementary schools now are incorporating their education lessons into our classrooms.

  7. Andrew -  March 31, 2011 - 3:13 pm

    i cant belive u dudes luv it! it is soooooooooooooooooooonot luvey luvey!

  8. Karen -  March 29, 2011 - 1:39 pm

    I rarely play scrabble even though I love word games and the like.
    But I still remember my best scoring word:
    I put Queue on a triple score square. with that Q and those U’s, the score for just that word was 72 points.
    that was a very fun game to win.

  9. Cyberquill -  March 29, 2011 - 12:59 pm

    Thanks for all the suggestions. I’m just wondering if the encore and infogrames versions work on Windows 7 (64-bit).

  10. David -  March 29, 2011 - 4:47 am

    Scrabble rocks. Too bad so many folks don’t care about spelling. If you play any of the hand-held variants, beware of cheaters who use word generators.

  11. Richard Mallery -  March 28, 2011 - 8:58 pm

    My parents got their first scrabble board in about 1950 – I believe they went through about three boards in those 60 years – Now we are playing on-line! Great game

  12. rock star -  March 28, 2011 - 2:42 pm

    this is so coooooooooooooooooooool! :D

  13. lovinyou -  March 28, 2011 - 11:24 am

    i know wat scrabbles original name was it was criss-crosswords

  14. courtney -  March 28, 2011 - 10:33 am

    it an alright game. it makes you think.

  15. olushola -  March 28, 2011 - 9:54 am

    i am a very good scrabble and an undefeated champion up till date,so if anyone is interested in challenging me,i am available,if you win,i owe you a dinner but if i wins,he/she owes me a dinner.if you are not sure of yourself,do not challenge me.

  16. nbahmed -  March 28, 2011 - 9:35 am

    @tharun – is the 700 an individual score or the combined game score?

  17. Elmer -  March 28, 2011 - 7:24 am

    @ Tharun

    Which rules are the kids playing to? Which dictionary is in use? Which language are they playing in?

  18. Elmer -  March 28, 2011 - 7:21 am

    “Scrabble” is also a construction site term, in line with the definition you give; for scratching away at a surface such as concrete.

    It’s plausible to assume that as an architect Mr Butts was familiar with this use of the word; it’s how I first came to use the word professionally.

  19. kmg -  March 28, 2011 - 6:15 am

    I love love LOVE Scrabble!!! We have the new “Diamond Edition” and the classic boards. I prefer the classic. The Diamond spins and stuff, but it doesn’t stay folded or anything. YAY SCRABBLE!!!!

  20. thewhelktamer -  March 28, 2011 - 1:53 am

    We had an ongoing Scrabble tournament going at University, with knock-out phases and play-offs and the like; we weren’t your typical students, to be sure.

    Also – to jazz it up a little – we created Ker-Scrabble, which combines Ker-Plunk and Scrabble. You play your word, then remove one of the Ker-Plunk sticks, and any marbles that drop are deducted from your score – it sounds daft, but it gets quite interesting when you get into minus scores!

  21. Melody -  March 28, 2011 - 1:33 am

    1. iluvu, that’s totally cool!
    2. Cyberquill, go on Yahoo Games. They have some pretty good word games. And you can also verse real people.
    3. Tharun, I doubt it.
    4. Mark, any word is suitable for a last name. I wouldn’t think you half-mature, but rather, totally immature…
    5. And Felicia, don’t be surprised, because five in seven people have never played Scrabble before…


  22. Mike -  March 27, 2011 - 9:06 pm

    I am addicted to Scrabble. When I first started playing I was getting beat 2 out of 3 games. So I went to the bookstore and got some books about Sccrabble. Learn what the pros do. One great book is “All About Scrabble” by Joe Edley and John Williams. Also look for tips on how to make bingos. First learn all the two letter words. Study the list, then keep working at it until you can write them all down without looking ast anything. Keep trying until you can do it. Then study the three letter word list.
    Never stop getting info from the experts. Now I can usually win 8 out of 10 games online. I have never had so much fun in my entire life. Try PogoGames.com.

  23. Anucat -  March 27, 2011 - 8:07 pm

    i love scrabble so much.but i dont belive that scrabble tournament is being conducted every year!!! great information!!!

  24. A Person -  March 27, 2011 - 5:55 pm

    That’s really cool! Where’d you find those?

  25. mary -  March 27, 2011 - 4:10 pm

    I did well at spelling when I was younger, mostly attributed to practice and a good memory. I haven’t done so well the few times I played scrabble against more seasoned players. However, I balk at the suggestion of memorizing the two letter words or using a scrabble dictionary to learn new high value words. It reminds me of the beginning chess players who study classic moves to improve their game. To me it’s a type of cheat and takes the fun out of developing and learning you achieve by just playing. I think it what comes out of a “win” mindset as opposed to one focused on personal growth. I once a had an excellent teacher who warned me against using a Thesaurus in my writing. He explained that would lead to using words unnaturally and awkward prose. He said the best way to improve your vocabulary was to read. Same principle … learn by doing, improve skill through practice.

  26. Enid vindel -  March 27, 2011 - 3:53 pm

    Play scrabble on facebook every day with people I dony know. From being a beginner my scores are now improving. I stated learning the two letter words and am nowon three letter words. Tracing is when you keep track of the tiles that have gone. I love it. For the first tim e this year I went away for a scrabble weekend and loved it. Enid

  27. CAT -  March 27, 2011 - 3:12 pm

    myemailgames.com is the internet site with the best Scrabble game. My sister and mom and I play all the time via the computer. Good luck!

  28. oshunbum -  March 27, 2011 - 2:03 pm

    oh what a bad bad typo, “I believe there is also a site…” not “their” omygosh~~I am so embarrassed! LOL

  29. MOOT -  March 27, 2011 - 2:01 pm

    Seems you meant to say the second letter and the last letter, “you can spell it backwards.

  30. john rhea -  March 27, 2011 - 3:16 am

    I used to love scrabble, and would play at least once a week. I now go to yahoo, they have 2 wonderful word games: Literati, which is very similar to scrabble, except that the letters can change every game instead of the pre-determined letters in scrabble. This is very addicting. The other is “Word racer”, in which you compete against up to 8 people and need to make as many words as possible, during 4 rounds. Both games are free. You’ll spend hours online, see the same people after awhile, and make some new online friends.

  31. Tharun -  March 27, 2011 - 12:40 am

    Haha the tournaments here in Singapore for high school students have average scores of about 700 points.

  32. XxfallenangelxX -  March 26, 2011 - 11:00 pm

    Urgh… i used to play scrabble jr. when I was younger, but nowadays I just freeze up while playing and can’t think of any words. Maybe I should learn new words or something >.<

  33. iluvu -  March 26, 2011 - 10:57 pm

    i love scrabble and boogle- so much fun beating people much older than me but i am a good speller and i am also good at grammar.
    Did you know that if you put the first letter of the word at the end you can spell it backwards? try some:


  34. Mark -  March 26, 2011 - 8:56 pm

    I’m very surprised by most of this. Specially, in a halfly mature matter, I was surprised that Butt is a surname.

  35. michela -  March 26, 2011 - 5:20 pm

    oh my gosh!!!! i can’t beleive it it’s just so amazing to see the past of scrable and all it’s past names. it’s astonishing to find out all these amazing findings.

  36. eMarrs -  March 26, 2011 - 4:42 pm

    there is a scrabble app on facebook which will allow you to play with your facebook friends, as well as people who have the iphone app. i found it on my ipod touch app store but play mostly vs facebook friends who are on computers.

  37. camille -  March 26, 2011 - 4:22 pm

    Boggle is great also.

    Pogo.com has scrabble, boggle, and bookworm. Plus a whole lot of other word games. It’s a free game site, but you have ads (30 seconds or so between games). You can also buy a membership. I have the free membership and they always have promotions for a “free trial”. For the past 2 months I haven’t had to play with ads and haven’t had to pay a dime because of the free trial things.

    You can also download games for a cost, with a free trial before hand too.

    All the games sites that I have been to I enjoy Pogo.com the best. The Boggle version is great.

  38. zipurlip2 -  March 26, 2011 - 10:54 am

    @Felicia … you should try “Boggle”. It’s another fun way to challenge your vobulary skills. After our home got destroyed by a storm, my family took to playing that game to pass the time. Being spelling impaired, I found that my spelling improved!

  39. J.B. -  March 26, 2011 - 10:22 am

    I haven’t played Scrabble before. But now that I read this, I think I might try it out. It sounds pretty cool.

  40. Jackie -  March 26, 2011 - 10:14 am

    My mom recently became hooked on Scrabble for the iPhone.

  41. SusanEst -  March 26, 2011 - 10:04 am

    I’m not familiar with a Scrabble game online, but I got addicted to a one-player word game called Bookworm, went out and bought a disc of it for $10 and it has given me years of entertainment. It’s still my favorite. <3

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  43. Annie -  March 26, 2011 - 9:22 am

    To Cyberquill,

    I’ve been playing the infogrames Scrabble complete for a good ten years or more. Which I bought many years back. It used to be owned by Hasbro, don’t know if it still is.

    Playing against the Maven levels has kept me pretty satisfied, you can play at your own level, the professional level on the game is 2100.

  44. J -  March 26, 2011 - 9:00 am

    The best are ISC (go to http://www.isc.ro) to play with others online.

    and Quackle which was developed by a scrabble world champion – the computer should be challenging enough.

  45. Spring -  March 26, 2011 - 7:48 am

    That’s funny Cyberquill. I would feel the same way!
    Felicia – kudos to you for teaching GED students and introducing them to Scrabble.

  46. alan -  March 26, 2011 - 6:55 am

    @ cyberquill: a store near me called five below has a great scrabble cd. you can also find it at http://www.encore.com. it has fantastic graphics and is very challenging. hope this helps.

  47. wordjunkie -  March 26, 2011 - 6:51 am

    I love this game. I don’t always do very well, but it’s still fun to play. Maybe I should start memorizing those two-letter words!

  48. don -  March 26, 2011 - 6:13 am

    i wont to be able to install addons

  49. don -  March 26, 2011 - 6:12 am

    i cant get the internet explorer to allow me to enable

  50. joybells -  March 26, 2011 - 5:58 am

    @ Felicity Never played before? You shouldn’t be surprised. Many kids and adults I have found just don’t care if they spell correctly. I had a rubber stamp made at Staples one day. The employee made “Thankyou” I asked him why he didn’t make a space between thank and you. He said,”Isn’t that how it’s spelled?” He was in his late twenties. This country is in big trouble!.

  51. Felicia -  March 26, 2011 - 3:38 am

    I’ve been playing the game with some of my GED students. I can’t believe how many had NEVER played it before. (But then again, if I think about it, it actually seems somewhat logical.) They’re not very good, but they love it. They really like Balderdash too.

  52. Cyberquill -  March 26, 2011 - 1:10 am

    I’m looking for a good PC Scrabble available for download. Hard to find. Suggestions?

    I bought the Kindle version, but it sucks, because I keep winning even though the stupid thing is set to the most difficult level, which obviously means there’s something seriously wrong with the way it has been programmed.


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