Science has determined the worst Wordle starting word

Click to play video: 'V-I-R-A-L: What’s behind the internet’s Wordle obsession?'
V-I-R-A-L: What’s behind the internet’s Wordle obsession?
WATCH: Twitter feeds are being inundated with a barrage of green boxes, as people go wild for Wordle, a new online puzzle game. Mike Drolet explains what's fuelling the viral vocabulary sensation, and why the idea isn't entirely new. – Jan 18, 2022

By now, you have probably figured out your favourite word to use when starting a game of Wordle.

However, thanks to science and TikTok, we also have some contenders for the worst word to play first.

TikTok user @crvlwanek, whose name is Chris, created an entire computer script to figure out what the best and worst words are to open a game of Wordle.

(Wordle, for the uninitiated, is a one-play-per-day deduction game that asks players to figure out a five-letter word. Players receive a maximum of six guesses to complete the word. It’s become an absolute sensation since it was released online in Nov. 2020, and was recently bought by the New York Times.)

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According to Mashable, Chris was inspired by user @linguisticdiscovery, who was posting about the best and worst starting words — but wanted concrete, scientific proof about the best opening word.


Follow me for more word game hacks #Wordle

♬ original sound – Linguistic Discovery

His journey to Wordle truth began when Chris went into the game’s back-end code and found the entire list of possible daily words.

“I copied over the entire [word] list into a JSON file,” Chris says in the video. “And then I made a quick script to load all the words, calculate the frequencies of each letter, score each word based on the frequencies of the letters in the word, and then calculate the most optimal starting word.”

He found out that the worst word to start with is “xylyl” — a word taken from the world of chemistry that is defined by Merriam-Webster as “any of several isomeric monovalent radicals C8H9 derived from the three xylenes by removal of a hydrogen atom.”


Reply to @mapchallenge The worst starting words in #wordle #computerscience #python

♬ original sound – Chris

It’s clear why xylyl is a truly terrible word to kick off a game. It only includes three letters, it contains the letter “x”, and don’t even get us started about the arbitrary nature of the “y.”

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However, because Wordle players can be remarkably intense expect nothing but the best when it comes to strategy, some viewers pointed out that Chris’ initial calculation method ignored letter frequency. Chris amended the script, and now there are several versions that account for both the sum and the product of letter position and frequency.

According to his TikTok video, Chris also found that the words “imshi” and “aflaj” are also awful, game-killing first words.

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For what it’s worth, Chris’ program found “later” to be the ultimate starting word.

There has been much ado about Wordle strategy (a lot of people use the vowel-rich “adieu” as a starting word, by the way) and many have waxed poetic about their starting word preference.

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Rob Miller, a London-based strategist at a creative agency, discussed his starting word strategy with The Ringer last week, saying a computer script he wrote found “tares”, “lares”, “rales”, “rates” and “cares” to be the best starting words, in that order.

He also found that “xylyl” was the number one worst word to use, followed by “immix”, “jugum”, “hyphy”, and “oxbow.” He described the worst words as “possibly good words to learn if you want to be a tricksy Scrabble player; not so good for Wordle, although I guess Wordle could theoretically choose one of those words if it wanted to be really hideously horrible to people.”

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