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  • Paul Anthony Jones


(n.) peasants or serfs in pre-1917 Revolutionary Russia

If you follow Haggard Hawks on Instagram these days, earlier this week you might have spotted the fact that the most productive set of letters in a game of Scrabble is AEINRST, which can be used to spell at least nine 7-letter words:

But there’s a few things to clarify here. First of all, those words are anestri (the plural of anestrus, a break in the breeding cycle of certain mammals); antsier (“more antsy”); nastier (“more nasty”); ratines (the plural of ratiné, a type of coarse fabric); retinas (those light-sensitive membranes at the back of the eye); retains (“keeps”); retsina (a resin-flavoured wine from Greece); stainer (“that which stains”); and stearin (“an ester of stearic acid”, apparently).

Those nine words are acceptable in all games of Scrabble, but if you play using the official UK word list (apologies, US and Canada) then you can add resiant, an archaism meaning “dwelling” or “resident”, and starnie, a Scots dialect word for a little star, to the list.

Secondly, by “most productive” what we really mean “most opportunities for a bingo”—a bingo, in Scrabble players’ terms, being a word that uses up all seven of your tiles in a single go, earning a bonus of 50 points. So there might be other combinations of tiles that might produce more words in general, but if you’re after as many 7-letter words as possible, AEINRST is your best bet.

That being said, these are all low-scoring letters: all seven of the letters A, E, I, N, R, S and T are only worth 1 point, so even with your bingo bonus of 50 you’re probably not going to score much more than 70–80 points here. So if your definition of “most productive” is “highest scoring”, then your best bet is probably playing a word like jonquil (a daffodil), quetzal (a tropical bird), quartzy (resembling quartz) or muzjiks (Russian serfs)—the latter of which is said to be the highest scoring opening move in a game of Scrabble, worth an impressive 126 points.

scrabble tiles


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