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Obscure Collins words

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This page discusses how many of the words in the Collins lexicon seem obscure to NWL players, and is part of our introduction to Collins (SOWPODS) in North America. For brevity, we will refer to the North American and International lexica as NWL and CSW respectively.

Are All Collins Words Obscure, Obsolete, Foreign, etc.?

The short answer is mostly not, at least no more obscure than already makes up the majority of the NWL.

One must be careful to avoid a biased viewpoint, because when viewing the words that are CSW-only, one is not viewing the CSW itself, but just that part of it that contains the words not in the NWL. These are bound to be somewhat obscure, because if they were common everyday words widely used in English they would already be in the NWL.

Breaking down the list of CSW-only words into categories by meaning shows that a significant majority of the new words that are introduced are further examples of the kinds of words that already make up the NWL, such as animals, currency, minerals, and so on. Because the Scrabble lexica (both NWL and CSW) are based on single-volume abridged dictionaries, and not the full unabridged versions, such as Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, or the Oxford English Dictionary, they in fact really contain only a small fraction of the totality of English words. It is thus not surprising they that do not entirely overlap.

There are some differences: CSW has more obsolete and archaic words. They are not unique to CSW (NWL has perhaps 1,000 already), but there are certainly more. There are also more dialect words, particularly Scots, a result of the word source prior to Collins, The Chambers Dictionary, being based in Scotland, and its words being incorporated into the Collins Corpus. There are also significant numbers of words from countries where English is common, such as Australia, South Africa, and India. Ultimately, the ideal content of a word list is somewhat subjective.

The following list shows CSW-only words broken down into categories to show that a significant fraction are parts of categories that would not seem unreasonable to include in a word list, such as animals, food, and so on.


  • Words do not appear in more than one category, so those not under ‘obsolete’, ‘archaic’, etc. are not obsolete or archaic
  • The list was compiled manually, and so is not guaranteed complete
  • The list was compiled from an older edition of CSW than CSW21, but the numbers will not have changed by large amounts so the list remains illustrative
Number of Words
Abbreviations 86
Animals 523
Archaic 164
Australia 112
Chemicals/minerals 141
Clothing/fashion 95
Computing 32
Currency 36
Dialect 177
‘er’ nouns 11
Food/Drink 200
France 112
Geography/geology 87
Germany 15
Heraldry 44
India 132
Interjections 43
Irregular inflections 345
Ireland 36
Italy 28
Japan 21
Language 51
Latin 13
Law 52
Mathematical 22
Medical/anatomical 153
Milton 26
Music 120
New Zealand 122
Obsolete 388
Other 50
Other adjective 383
Other -ier -iest adjective 154
Other noun 1269
Other verb 573
Plants 321
Religious/spiritual 160
South Africa 66
Scots 573
Shakespeare 207
Slang 48
Spenser 307
Sports/games 77
Units 41
USA 12
Welsh 7
Total 635

Aside from this list, an excellent resource for further lists of words by categories is at the Association of British Scrabble Players website under their Words section. These lists, compiled by David Sutton, cover the full range of CSW words from 2-15 letters, with useful one-line definitions throughout.

The lists mark words new to CSW19 versus the previous edition, CSW15. These markings remain up-to-date since CSW21 contained no additions versus CSW19, but there is no differentiation between CSW and NWL words.

Please direct comments about this page to its author, Nick Ball.