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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 OWL2 players, and is part of our introduction to Collins (SOWPODS) in North America.

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 OWL2.

One must be careful to avoid a biased viewpoint, because, of course, 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 OWL2. These are bound to be somewhat obscure, because if they were common everyday words widely used in English they would be in the OWL2 already.

Breaking down the list of CSW-only words into categories by meaning shows that a significant majority of the new words to be added are further examples of the kinds of words that already make up the OWL2, such as animals, currency, minerals, and so on. Because the Scrabble lexica (both OWL2 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 (OWL2 has perhaps 1,000 already), but there are certainly more. There are also more dialect words, particularly Scots, a result of the previous word source, 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.

Note: 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.

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

Besides this list, another excellent source of CSW browsing is to view Albert Hahn’s postings of David Sutton’s wordlists on the crossword-games-pro (CGP) email list. Membership is only open to tournament players, but if you are a member, go to the advanced search page, and type in ‘David Sutton’s Word List’ into the ‘Subject: contains’ box, and click search. The CGP messages are versions of David’s lists at the British Association (ABSP’s) site, but have been marked up to show which words are CSW only. (Note that the ‘New Collins Words’ there are not referring to words not in OWL2, but to the last update to the International list. Only the CGP posts show which ones are CSW-only from the OWL2 point of view.)

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