One of the most popular board games of the twentieth century, Scrabble is a crossword-style game designed for two, three, or four players. Participants make interlocking words by drawing randomly from a stock of one hundred tiles, each bearing a letter of the alphabet. Letters are distributed according to their relative frequency in the language—there are twelve "E's" and nine "A's," for example, but only one "Q" and one "Z." The point value of the letters varies accordingly. By placing the tiles strategically on the game board, players can double or triple the point value of letters and words. Using seven letters in a single play (the number of tiles required to be drawn in each turn) is worth a bonus of fifty points.
Scrabble was invented by Alfred Mosher Butts (1899–1993) during the 1930s, who originally called it Lexiko, then Criss-Cross Words. He developed and manufactured the game himself from his apartment in the New York City borough of Queens, selling it by word of mouth. In 1947, the game was acquired by James Brunot (1902–1984), a Connecticut farmer who named it Scrabble. When the game was marketed by New York's Macy's Department Store in 1953, it became an overnight sensation. Sales skyrocketed. Brunot sold the game to the Selchow & Righter Company, which sold 3.8 million sets by the following year. The game was later marketed by Coleco. Scrabble is now sold in the United States by Hasbro. Some two million sets are sold worldwide every year.
Most players typically use familiar words while playing Scrabble. Competitive players enhance their scores considerably by memorizing lists of little-known words included in "official" Scrabble dictionaries used in tournaments. Official word lists used in the United States and Canada differ from those used elsewhere in the world. The dictionary used in international tournaments contain some forty thousand words that are not considered playable in North America. In recent years, some of the world's Scrabble champions have come from non-English speaking countries like Thailand or Malaysia.
For More Information
Fatsis, Stefan. Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001.
Hasbro, Inc. Scrabble Crossword Game.http://www.hasbroscrabble.com/default.asp?x=welcome (accessed February 21, 2002).
The Official Worldwide Scrabble Home Page.http://www.scrabble.com (accessed February 21, 2002).
scrab·ble / ˈskrabəl/ • v. [intr.] scratch or grope around with one's fingers to find, collect, or hold on to something: she scrabbled at the grassy slope, desperate for a firm grip. ∎ (of an animal) scratch at something with its claws: a dog was scrabbling at the door. ∎ make great efforts to get somewhere or achieve something: I had to scrabble around to find this apartment.• n. 1. an act of scratching or scrambling for something: he heard the scrabble of claws behind him. ∎ a struggle to get somewhere or achieve something: a scrabble among the salesmen to avoid going to the bottom of the heap.2. (Scrabble) trademark a board game in which players use lettered tiles to create words in a crossword fashion.DERIVATIVES: scrab·bler n.