Scrabble is a word game in which two to four players score points by placing tiles, each bearing a single letter, onto a gameboard which is divided into a 15×15 grid of squares. The tiles must form words which, in crossword fashion, flow left to right in rows or downwards in columns. The words must be defined in a standard dictionary. Specified reference works (e.g., the Official Tournament and Club Word List, the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary) provide a list of officially permissible words. The name Scrabble is a trademark of Hasbro, Inc. in the United States and Canada and has been sold by Hasbro's Parker Brothers division since 1999. Prior to 1999, it was sold as a Milton Bradley game. Outside the United States and Canada, Scrabble is a trademark of Mattel. The game is sold in 121 countries and is available in 29 languages; approximately 150 million sets have been sold worldwide and roughly one-third of American homes have a Scrabble set.


In 1938, American architect Alfred Mosher Butts created the game as a variation on an earlier word game he invented called Lexiko. The two games had the same set of letter tiles, whose distributions and point values Butts worked out by performing a frequency analysis of letters from various sources, including The New York Times. The new game, which he called "Criss-Crosswords," added the 15×15 gameboard and the crossword-style game play. He manufactured a few sets himself, but was not successful in selling the game to any major game manufacturers of the day.[7] In 1948, James Brunot,[8] a resident of Newtown, Connecticut – and one of the few owners of the original Criss-Crosswords game – bought the rights to manufacture the game in exchange for granting Butts a royalty on every unit sold. Though he left most of the game (including the distribution of letters) unchanged, Brunot slightly rearranged the "premium" squares of the board and simplified the rules;[citation needed] he also changed the name of the game to "Scrabble", a real word which means "to scratch frantically". In 1949, Brunot and his family made sets in a converted former schoolhouse in Dodgingtown, a section of Newtown. They made 2,400 sets that year, but lost money.[9] According to legend, Scrabble??'?s big break came in 1952 when Jack Straus, president of Macy's, played the game on vacation. Upon returning from vacation, he was surprised to find that his store did not carry the game. He placed a large order and within a year, "everyone had to have one."[citation needed] In 1952, unable to meet demand himself, Brunot sold manufacturing rights to Long Island-based Selchow and Righter, one of the manufacturers who, like Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley Company, had previously rejected the game. In its second year as a Selchow and Righter-built product, nearly four million sets were sold.[10] Selchow and Righter bought the trademark to the game in 1972.[11] JW Spears began selling the game in Australia and the UK on January 19, 1955. The company is now a subsidiary of Mattel.[7] In 1986, Selchow and Righter was sold to Coleco, which soon after went bankrupt. Hasbro purchased the company's assets, including Scrabble and Parcheesi.[11] In 1984, Scrabble was turned into a daytime game show on NBC. Scrabble ran from July 1984 to March 1990,[12] with a second run from January to June 1993. The show was hosted by Chuck Woolery. The show's tagline promotional broadcasts was, "Every man dies; not every man truly Scrabbles."[13] In 2011, a new TV variation of Scrabble, called Scrabble Showdown, aired on The Hub cable channel, which is a joint venture of Discovery Communications, Inc. and Hasbro. Scrabble was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2004