Is a zed a Scrabble word?

Quick Answer

No, zed is not a valid Scrabble word in North American tournaments. Zed is considered an alternate spelling of the letter Z, which is not allowed as a stand-alone word in Scrabble. However, zed is acceptable in international Scrabble tournaments played outside of North America.

What is a zed?

Zed is simply another name for the letter Z. It is the preferred pronunciation of Z in British English and other variants of English spoken outside North America. The letter Z is pronounced “zee” in American English.

So a “zed” is the same as the letter Z. It is the 26th and last letter of the English alphabet.

Some key facts about the letter Z:

  • In English, it represents the voiced alveolar fricative sound /z/.
  • The Semitic symbol from which it was derived may have originated with an Egyptian hieroglyph representing a tool.
  • The Phoenicians, who spread the alphabet, called the symbol zayin, meaning “weapon”.
  • In classical Greek Zeta represented the number 7.
  • In the International Phonetic Alphabet, [z] represents the sound of Z.

So in summary, a “zed” is simply another term for the letter Z, used outside of North America.

Is zed a valid Scrabble word?

According to the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary (OSPD) and Official Tournament and Club Word List (OTCWL) used in North America, zed is not a valid word.

The Scrabble dictionary only includes words, not single letters. So you cannot play just the letter “Z” by itself.

This means zed is not eligible to be played in a North American Scrabble tournament, as it would be treated the same as playing only the letter Z.

However, zed is considered a valid word in international Scrabble tournaments and gameplay outside of North America. This is because it is an accepted variant spelling of the letter Z in places where “Z” is pronounced “zed”.

So in summary:

  • In North American Scrabble, zed is not a valid word.
  • Internationally, zed is accepted as a variant spelling of Z.

Why is zed not allowed in North American Scrabble?

The fact that zed is not valid in North American Scrabble play comes down to the dictionary source used.

North American tournaments utilize the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary (OSPD) published by Merriam-Webster as their adjudicating reference. This dictionary is based on American English spellings and variants.

Since zed is a non-American spelling of Z, it is not included in OSPD. And as a single letter, Z is not considered a word or playable.

The Scrabble dictionary compilers have made the decision to not include alternate regional spellings or pronunciations of letters. So zed, being a regional British/international variant of Z, is left out.

This precedent is why other regional spellings like “aitch” for H or “ex” for X would also be disallowed under North American rules. Only the conventional American spellings are permitted.

So in a nutshell, zed is excluded simply because it is a non-American spelling not recognized by the official Scrabble dictionary used for adjudication in North America.

What dictionaries include zed as a word?

While zed is not found in the North American OSPD or Official Tournament and Club Word List, there are some other English language dictionaries and word lists that do include it as an entry.

Some dictionaries that include zed as a word:

  • Collins English Dictionary – Used internationally, includes zed as a headword.
  • Oxford English Dictionary (OED) – Recognizes zed as a variant spelling of Z, usually outside North America.
  • Chambers Dictionary – Leading British English dictionary with zed listed.
  • WordNet – Large English word database includes zed as a variant of Z.

So generally speaking, British and international English dictionaries are more likely to include zed than American dictionaries. It is seen as a regional spelling of Z.

Some competitive Scrabble word lists outside North America also recognize zed based on the dictionaries commonly used in those regions.

So while it is absent from the key North American Scrabble source (OSPD), zed does appear as a valid entry in many other respected dictionaries and word lists around the world.

Where is zed used as the name for Z?

The pronunciation of Z as “zed” rather than “zee” is common in the following major varieties of English:

  • British English
  • Australian English
  • New Zealand English
  • South African English
  • Indian English

It is also used in some other Commonwealth nations like Canada and Ireland, though “zee” is also heard.

The origin of “zed” for Z is uncertain, but it predates American English and likely has roots in Greek or French. “Zee” arose later as an American variation in the mid-1800s.

So in summary, the major dialects of English using “zed” include:

  • UK and British English worldwide
  • English in Australia, NZ, South Africa, India
  • Much of the Commonwealth of Nations

This accounts for most English speakers outside of North America using the “zed” pronunciation. It is safe to assume that “zed” is universally recognized as a variant of Z in all regions outside of the United States and Canada.

When is zed used in Scrabble gameplay?

Since zed is not a valid Scrabble word in North America, it is never used in tournament or club play there.

However, zed does see play in international English Scrabble in the following circumstances:

  • Tournaments and clubs played outside North America
  • Online Scrabble apps or games where “international English” rules or dictionaries are used
  • Informal Scrabble games played overseas or online

So for competitive purposes, zed would only potentially be played in international tournaments held in places like the UK, Australia, New Zealand, etc. where it is considered a valid alternate for Z.

It could also turn up in international English games on sites like Facebook if that platform recognizes zed as a playable word.

And of course it might be seen in casual kitchen-table style Scrabble games anywhere that English “zed” speakers are playing. But it would not meet tournament standards in North America.

So in summary, zed realistically only sees use in international and informal Scrabble gameplay outside of North America. Within North American clubs and tournaments it is strictly invalid.

Is zed ever used in North American Scrabble gameplay?

No, zed is never legally played in any North American Scrabble gameplay, whether tournament, club, or casual play. This is because it is considered an invalid word under the Scrabble dictionary rules used there.

As a single letter, Z is not eligible to be played by itself in Scrabble. And zed is treated as simply a variant spelling of Z, rather than a dictionary-approved word.

So there is no circumstance where a player could ever successfully challenge zed and win the play on a North American Scrabble board. It would be disqualified as an invalid word.

This assumes players are properly following OSPD rules. In incorrectly played games with made-up rules, a player might get away with using zed. But that would not happen in any legitimate tournament, club, or rule-abiding casual play.

The fact that zed is exclusively British/international, while North American Scrabble utilizes American word lists, guarantees its exclusion from acceptable gameplay in the U.S. and Canada.

So in summary, zed is entirely unplayable in North American Scrabble under the accepted rules and standards. It only gains legality in international play.

What other foreign Scrabble words use alternate spellings?

While North American Scrabble disallows zed, there are some other noteworthy foreign Scrabble words that employ alternate or uncommon spellings:

  • Aitch – H, mostly in Ireland/UK
  • Ee – Double E, as in “agree”, UK spelling
  • Ghoti – Sounds like “fish”, constructed word
  • Yex – X, found in New Zealand/Australia
  • Zed – Z, British/Commonwealth spelling
  • Colour – UK spelling of “color”
  • Centre – UK spelling of “center”

So words like aitch, yex, and zed are regional variants. Ghoti is an intentionally created example. And colour/centre show British/American spelling contrasts.

These types of words might be considered acceptable in international play where British spellings and pronunciations are permitted. But they would be disqualified as invalid under North American tournament rules.

It demonstrates how local spellings can differ between regional Scrabble dictionaries. What flies in the UK or NZ may be deemed unacceptable in American gameplay.


In summary:

  • Zed is an alternate name for the letter Z, used outside North America.
  • It is not included in the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary or Tournament Word List for North America.
  • Therefore, zed is not a valid play in any North American Scrabble tournament or club.
  • However, zed is considered a legal word in international Scrabble gameplay.
  • It is primarily seen in UK, Australian, NZ and other Commonwealth nations’ English.
  • Zed is an example of a foreign Scrabble spelling not accepted in American play.

So while zed is a recognized variant of Z, it remains disqualified from formal Scrabble in the U.S. and Canada due to its regional origins and pronunciation. Only in international tournaments and clubs is it potentially playable. Within North America, forget about ever successfully plonking down that “zed” in formal play!

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