Over the last few articles we have shown different methods for learning new words, but probably the method most people use is to learn from others.




Most Scrabble games contain at least one or two challenges. Use these words as the building blocks for learning new words. Last night for instance the words GOOG and SCORIAE were challenged.


GOOG is clearly a back hook for GOO, but what are the others ?


Does SCORIAE anagram to anything else ? What if the C was substituted for a blank – what bonuses can be made ?




It is important to remember that everyone comes with their own history of words.


A gardener would know SEQUOIA, but may not know the medical ILIA. Neither may know a statistician’s word, MEDIANS.



So if these words are challenged.. what associated lists can we make ?



SEQUOIA contains all 5 vowels. Are there any other 7 letter words that do this ?


ILIA contains three vowels including two Is. Are there others ? Are there any useful hooks to ILIA ?


MEDIANS has several anagrams, and contains the letters SANDIE. This is a relatively useful six letter stem, as you can make 38 words if you had SANDIE + a blank.




Reading books and listening/watching radio/TV are useful source of words. If a novel is set in a foreign country, it is likely that indigenous words are used. Think of the song “Waltzing Matilda” and SWAGMAN and BILLABONG immediately spring to mind.


Word learning may sometimes seem to be a random process:  learning words by accident as they played against you.

Sometimes words can be learnt by rote, or by using mnemonics, stories or word families.



Find the method which works best for you… and enjoy your learning!

An often under-rated method of learning new words is that of ‘word families’.


Here a base word is chosen and then explored in detail. In Allan Simmons “Scrabble Trainer” he explores several 2 letter words. To show the principle, here is a ‘word family’ for the three letter OCH.




To the left of the picture we see all the four letter words that end in -OCH, to the right we see the 4 letter words (in this case one), that start OCH-.


These four letter words are then expanded into 5 letter words by front and back hooking. The diagram has been structured so that either the top line/furthest left line is a front hook, and the bottom/more right is a back hook. If no words exist then the line terminates with a dot.


So we can learn quite quickly the 4 front hooks to OCH, and the 7 hooks to those four letter words. We can see that OCH cannot be pluralised, but it has one back hook, which forms the basis for 4 five letter words.


The word family could also include anagrams and if it did we would learn :



Anagrams to CHOC


Anagrams to MACHO


Anagrams to CHIMO and OHMIC


Anagrams to ECHO


Anagrams to CHORE and OCHRE


Anagrams to CHOSE and ECHOS




There are no hard and fast rules to creating a ‘word family’, it is just a means of collecting together similar words. Another family might be to take a 7 letter word, remove each letter in turn and substitute it with a blank and see what other bonuses are ‘close by’ in the family.


Here we see the word GROCKLE.




There are seven lines coming out, one for each of the removed letters. We can see GROCKLE without an E, but with a  blank makes nothing, and that GROCKLE without a G but with a blank is the most productive member of this family.


Next time you challenge a word, why not make a family yourself ?


In our previous article we looked at mnemonics – and for hooks they are useful. Mnemonics for longer words can only indicate that a word may be formed, but not what the word is. For example you might remember that SNORTED + E makes a word, but what is it ? Is it RESTONED, ERODENTS, DETONERS or all 3 ?




This is where pictures or stories are useful to remember a set of bonuses.

The set may only contain 2 words e.g you might find a RUFFIAN at a FUNFAIR.



You may not even know the true meanings of words, providing you can find a good hook.


Take the word CORTINA. Few people will know that it is a mushroom membrane. But many people will remember it as a make of car.


A fair few people will know CAROTIN is the pigment in carrots making them orange.


But, breaking the word CAROTIN into “CAR (made) O(f) TIN” or CAR OTIN might be a useful way to find its anagram CORTINA.



Take the set of letters A E I L N R T. Do you know all the anagrams ? Maybe this story will help.


Imagine a really large tree. Nailed to the tree is a Robin RELIANT. The nail in the tree is called a TRENAIL.  The hole that the nail has made is eye-shaped (RETINAL). You peer through the hole and see a line of rats, RATLINE, heading for a LATRINE. You follow. In the latrine are ENTRAILs.  




The problem with stories is that new words may be added to the dictionary, which mean the story has to change.


A SENATOR could commit TREASON – but then atone for his sins and join with ATONERS. But the new word SANTERO doesn’t quite fit.. Maybe that’s the name of the Senator!




A TSARINA might have used the services of an ARTISAN craftsman. But where does ANTIARS fit into the story ?




Why not try and make a story with the four words EOLITHS, HOLIEST, HOSTILE and LITHOES. Remember it doesn’t matter if you don’t know what EOLITHS are..but does EOLITHS remind you of another word ?




The more memorable the picture the more it is likely to stick in the mind. The letters A E I G L N T make 5 words (one a bit too rude to describe the picture here). So look the words up, and make your own (probably rude) picture.


Next time we will look at word patterns.


In our last article we looked at learning lists, and breaking long lists into sublists.



Learning lists has 2 major drawbacks :


1)      its tedious and


2)    if you can’t remember one word, you may not remember all the words that follow it




Mnemonics provide a colourful way of remembering a set of words, and is most useful for learning hooks. 

Mnemonics work best when the letters/phrase in the mnemonic can be connected to the base word.




Take this as an example … what are the hooks to EVE ?


A mnemonic might be MaNLY TuRNS. 



It could be argued that EVE turned Adam (MAN) when she ate the apple in the Garden of Eden. So this mnemonic can, albeit loosely, be

tied to the base word. But what does MaNLY TuRNS mean ?



The letters MNLY can all precede EVE to make MEVE, NEVE, LEVE and YEVE.


The letters TRNS all follow EVE to make EVET, EVER, EVEN and EVES.



Note that the vowels in MaNLY TuRNS are not used, which is why they have been shown in lower case.




Using mnemonics that don’t connect with the base words, is possible.. but you have to then remember what the base word is !


As an example the hooks to AA are BAA, CAA, FAA, MAA, AAH, AAL and AAS.



The following mnemonic is poor :


Buying Cod For Men Has Little Sense




But if you know that AA is a type of volcanic lava from Hawaii then :


Be Careful ! Fire, Magma, Hawaiian Lava Splashes



provides the front hooks (BCFM) and back hooks (HLS).


But will you remember which are front and back ?




It is possible to use mnemonics for bonus words too..






The 7 letter word SNORTED combines with the letters of “IN A YUMMY PIE” (I,N,A,Y,U,M,P and E) to make :


I – DRONIEST                     N- TENDRONS                                    A-TORNADES




M- MORDENTS                  P- PORTENDS, PROTENDS               E -ERODENTS




The word AGA can have 2 definitions – a Middle Eastern Chief, or a type of cooker.


Why not try to come up with a mnemonic to remember the front and back hooks to AGA?


(The hooks to AGA appeared in a recent quiz, scroll down to find the letters you need to use in your mnemonic).




Next time we will look at stories.


The first way to learn lists, is to… LEARN LISTS.




Think back to when you were at school, how did you learn to count in French, how did you learn a poem or song, how did you remember battles, chemical elements, etc.. ?



Probably by rote.



By writing down the list, time after time, after time. Very monotonous, but does get rewards.



Some lists though are quite big.  So break the lists down into manageable sizes.


For example the 2 letter words could be broken into :


a)       26 mini lists each beginning with a different letter (DA, DE, DI, DO)



b)      26 mini lists each ENDING with a different letter (AR, ER, OR, UR)



c)       Ignore words a child of 10 would know (and then look at the rest) e.g Ignore AM, BY, IT etc



d)      Words containing JQXZ



e)      Words containing 2 vowels (or 2 consonants) e.g AA, AE, AI, EA etc or CH, FY, KY etc



f)        Musical notes (DO, RE, MI, FA etc)



g)       Parts of speech (AH, ER, UM etc)




Every long list, whether it is :


- all the 2 letter words


- or the 7 letter words containing the letters of RETAIN


- or the 4 letter words containing 3 vowels (e.g AREA, EPEE, IDEA)




can all be broken in several sub-list. How you create the sub-lists is down to you.




Using the last example as a question …

Can you think of 3 different ways the 96 4 letter words containing 3 vowels can be split into sub-lists ? (Answers at the end, but do think about it before you read them)




These days many top players record the lists and play it back on the car, or the bath. You can too… every mobile phone has a recorder function these days!




Next time we will look at mnemonics.




(For those struggling with the sub-lists for the 4 letter words containing 3 vowels here are 3 sub-list ideas :


-          Words starting with the same letter  e.g OBIA, OOZE, OUMA etc. 


-          Words split by the sole consonant in the word e.g AREA, ARIA, EURO etc 


-          Words split by vowel make up AEE yields AGEE, AJEE, EASE etc..




There are others of course, the choice is yours)