Scrabble is a popular board game in which players use letter tiles to form words on a game board. The official Scrabble dictionary contains thousands of acceptable words players can use. But with new technology and language trends, there are always questions about what should qualify as a valid Scrabble word. One such case is the term “WIFI.”
Quick answer: Yes, WIFI is considered a valid Scrabble word as of 2019.
WIFI stands for “wireless fidelity” and refers to a wireless local area network (WLAN) that uses high frequency radio signals to transmit data. The term came into popular use in the 1990s with the advent of wireless internet.
In the past, WIFI was not considered valid in Scrabble because it is an abbreviation or acronym. However, Scrabble’s dictionary is updated periodically to keep up with new words and language usage. In 2019, the owners of Scrabble announced that certain two-letter abbreviations are now allowed, including WI and FI for WIFI.
So players can now officially play WIFI and similar two-letter abbreviations in a game of Scrabble. However, longer acronyms still cannot be used. TheScrabble adjudication committee determines which new words make the cut based on usage over time.
The History and Meaning of WIFI
To better understand why WIFI is now allowed in Scrabble, it’s helpful to learn more about the history and meaning of the term itself.
WIFI stands for “wireless fidelity.” It refers to a standardized technology that allows electronic devices to connect to a wireless local area network (WLAN) using radio waves. These radio waves operate on either the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz radio frequency bands.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) first created the initial 802.11 WLAN standard in 1997, which provided for 1 or 2 Mbps transmission speeds. Since then, the standard has evolved to support higher bandwidths.
The Wi-Fi Alliance, a global non-profit industry association, started using the WIFI trademark in 1999 to brand certified products that met IEEE 802.11 standards. The trademark helped increase popularity of the term among consumers. IEEE eventually approved WIFI as a shorthand version for 802.11 technology.
So in summary, WIFI refers to the ubiquitous wireless networking technology that uses radio frequencies to allow devices to connect to the internet and communicate without cables or wires. It’s become a fundamental piece of modern-day connectivity. Billions of devices now use WIFI worldwide, from computers and smartphones to smart home gadgets, TVs and cars.
The Evolution of Scrabble Dictionaries
Now that we’ve covered the background of WIFI itself, how did this relatively new technology term make its way into Scrabble’s official dictionary?
Scrabble was invented in 1938 by Alfred Mosher Butts and was first sold commercially in 1948. Since then, the game has gone through several different owners.
Scrabble’s dictionaries are curated by the North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA) and the lexicon is maintained by Merriam-Webster. NASPA adds new words based on usage data and trends.
Here is a quick history of Scrabble dictionary updates:
- The first Scrabble dictionary published in 1978 contained around 73,000 words.
- In 1996, the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary (OSPD) was released, adding thousands more words.
- OSPD2 was released in 2005 with the addition of QAT, ZA, ZAX, ZED and more words.
- OSPD3 came out in 2006. New words included INY, IF’N, B2B, and more.
- OSPD4 in 2012 added popular slang and text speak like BOOTY, BROMANCE, CHILLAX.
You can see Scrabble modernizing over time to include more contemporary words and abbreviations.
In 2018, the Scrabble Players Association announced it would start including valid two-letter abbreviations using the existing tile pool. WI and FI were given as examples. This ruling paved the way for WIFI’s official inclusion in Scrabble in the latest 2019 update.
Why WIFI is Now Allowed in Scrabble
Scrabble has specific criteria for including new words in its dictionary. The Scrabble adjudication committee looks at the following factors:
- Usage – is there evidence of widespread, sustained use in print and speech?
- Spelling – is the word conventionally spelled as one word or hyphenated?
- Part of speech – is the word a noun or verb as opposed to an abbreviation/initialism?
- Form – is the word an acronym, initialism, or abbreviation?
For a long time, WIFI was considered an initialism or abbreviation rather than a proper word. But WIFI gained such widespread global usage in the last 20 years that it became impossible to ignore.
Merriam-Webster dictionary started including WIFI and recognizing its use as a noun and verb as early as 2004. Other dictionaries soon followed. NASPA eventually relented as well once WIFI undoubtedly met the criteria for inclusion.
There was also the existing precedent of words like SCUBA, LASER and RADAR already being allowed in Scrabble, even though they originated as acronyms. NASPA realized allowing other very common abbreviations was now warranted, so long as they fit within the tile pool.
In WIFI’s case, permitting the two-letter combination FI or WI enabled players to form the abbreviation. Similar reasoning applies to allowing AW (airwaves), GM (genetically modified) and PC (politically correct).
So in summary, WIFI became such an indispensable everyday term over the last 20+ years that it qualified as a Scrabble word on usage alone. The fact it was an abbreviation no longer outweighed that widespread adoption.
Playing WIFI Strategically in Scrabble
Now that it’s established WIFI is a valid play, how can you use it strategically in a Scrabble game?
Like any short word, WIFI is useful for tacking onto other words to score points. Here are some tips for getting the most out of playing WIFI:
- Play parallel to an existing word to form compounds. Ex. WIFI enabled, WIFI network, WIFI hotspot
- Hooks onto common prefixes and suffixes. Ex. unWIFIed, smarterWIFI, WIFIzing
- Combos with other two-letter words – WIFiFY, unWIFIed
- Pluralize it – WIFis, use the S blank tile
- Takes an S to make into a verb – WIFIs, WIFIed, WIFIing
- Form other parts of speech – WIFI (noun), WIFIed (adjective), WIFIing (gerund)
- Use it leading up to a triple word or double letter score square
Scrabble strategy is about maximizing opportunities whenever possible. WIFI’s flexibility provides players with more options for scoring and leveraging premium board positions.
It can both block opponents and open up new lanes when played cleverly. Keep WIFI in mind next time you get the FI or WI tiles, especially if you can build off existing tiles already on the board.
In summary, WIFI is now an accepted Scrabble word as of 2019. It was added to the official Scrabble dictionary after extensive use over decades made it impossible to deny its status as a commonplace noun and verb.
Although originally considered an abbreviation, WIFI became so ubiquitous in the modern lexicon that Scrabble’s adjudication committee determined its inclusion was warranted and consistent with similar precedents.
Scrabble players now have another two-letter weapon at their disposal. WIFI fits squarely within the language evolution that Scrabble dictionaries are designed to reflect. Just remember the strategies around using it for optimal scoring. Look for ways to pluralize, build compounds and maximize board positioning. WIFI might be the perfect play to outmaneuver your opponent and get you over the top towards victory.