It's almost two years since Wordle burst onto the scene. The game went public in the midst of the Covid pandemic in October 2021 and really took off a couple of months later.
The familiar sight of successfully completed grids littered social media with players boasting how quickly they were able to complete that day's word puzzle.
While the initial frenzy for the game has subsided over the years, it's still a regular part of many people's lives and certain words can still cause an abrupt end to the longest of winning streaks.
If you are are still taunted by the tiny green, yellow and grey letters on your phone screen as you vainly attempt to repress the urge to Google "words ending in 'IST'", one sure-fire way to enhance your Wordle gameplay is to find that perfect first word - those five letters guaranteed to give you a few helpful hints to get you started.
But which words are the best to begin your Wordle game with? Here are some suggestions...
What is Wordle?
Firstly, a little context on the game of Wordle, an online brain teaser which lies somewhere between a crossword and a sudoku puzzle.
Anyone who knows the game Mastermind, which employs the use of coloured pegs, will instantly be familiar with the premise of Wordle.
The objective of the game is to guess the secret word in six tries, using a series of hints to figure it out.
If any of your letters are highlighted as green, that means that you’ve got the right letter in the right place.
If any of the letters are highlighted as yellow, that means that those letters are in the word, but they’re currently in the wrong place.
Finally, if any of your letters are highlighted as grey, it means that those letters aren’t included anywhere in the secret word.
You can play Wordle on the New York Times’ website. There is only one puzzle released each day, so you’ll need to check the website again the following day to continue playing along.
Users can share how many tries it took for them to crack the puzzle on social media, as, after it’s been solved, the website offers players the option to share their results.
This share option generates an emoji grid which replicates the colour pattern found on your completed puzzle, using the black, yellow and green emoji boxes. Sharing like this allows players to share their results entirely spoiler-free.
What is the best starting word for Wordle?
Depending on who you ask, the answer to the above question may be slightly different.
Lexicographers, linguistics experts and even computer scientists have all been trying to figure out the definitive best word for starting a game of Wordle. But so far, there’s no one size fits all answer.
When the New York Times took owernship of the puzzle sensation, the publication developed a bot that found that ‘crane’ was the most effective starting word, but they also said that “the perfect opening word for a computer isn’t necessarily the perfect opening word for you”.
That being said, there are still a number of words that are thought to give you an edge.
These words often contain a multitude of vowels - nearly every word in the English language makes use of either A, E, I, O, or U at some point - or some of the most commonly occurring letters.
Unfortunately, there are no words in English that are made up entirely of vowels, so we will have to settle for the next best thing: a five-letter word containing four of them.
Five-letter words that contain four vowels include:
What are the most common letters?
While those words will give you the edge in the realm of vowels, you could also start with some words that make use of the English language’s most commonly used letters.
In the mid-90s, the Oxford Dictionary conducted an analysis of its entries, which revealed E and A to be the two most common letters, appearing in 11 and 8% of words respectively.
But since we’ve already tackled vowels, let’s focus on the most commonly used consonants.
R, T and N take the top three places, so producing a starting word containing all of the top five words would certainly be a good start.
That word is ‘ANTRE’, an archaic term for a cavern or cave.
Is ‘LATER’ the best Wordle starting word?
That word is unlikely to score you a one-try win, however. That’s because Wordle makes use of a pre-programmed word list from which each day’s solution is selected.
While this list is extensive, running to thousands of entries, it doesn’t cover every possible five-letter permutation (it only contains 2,315 of the more than 12,000 five-letter words in the English language). And it definitely doesn’t include the outdated term, ‘antre’.
So which word contains the largest amount of helpful, commonly appearing letters, and is also - crucially - in Wordle’s list?
According to Chris Wanek, a TikTok user who wrote and ran a computer script to determine the game’s best possible starter, that word is ‘LATER’.
After being inspired by a fellow user who claimed that, linguistically, the best word to use is ‘IRATE’, Wanek copied the entire word list, and then made a script to calculate the frequencies of each letter.
The script then scored each word based on the frequencies of the letters in the word, and then calculated the most optimal starting word.
What’s the worst word to start with?
If you really want to give yourself a challenge, you could take the opposite approach and start with a five-letter word that’s unlikely to be of much help.
In figuring out the best starting word, Wanek also determined the very worst.
That word is the consonant-laden ‘XYLYL’, a scientific term for “any of several isomeric monovalent radicals C8H9 derived from the three xylenes by removal of a hydrogen atom.” Apparently.