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The Worst Starting Word In Wordle, According To Science

If you've been online in 2022 at all, then you've probably seen that little box of color-coordinated squares that's taken over social media. "Wordle," the internet game based around these fun designs, took over the internet and has become a daily staple in a lot of people's lives. The game's so popular that it's had several clones that caused an uproar pop up in the past month. The goal of "Wordle" is to reveal an obscured daily word by giving players six chances to input the correct word. One TikTok user decided to get into the science of the game and actually discovered the worst starting word anyone could try.

TikTok user Crvlwanek created an entire computer script with Python to figure out what the best and worst "Wordle" starting words would be after listening to a linguist talk about the best word to start with. First, they dug through the code of "Wordle" to find the entire list of possible daily words. From there, they created a scoring system with their script to categorize the likelihood of all letters and their possible orders.

As it turns out, the worst word to start with is "xylyl." In case you haven't brushed up on your chemistry lingo, xylyl is "any of several isomeric monovalent radicals C8H9 derived from the three xylenes by removal of a hydrogen atom" (via Merriam-Webster). But which word might give you a leg up when starting a new puzzle?

What about the best word in Wordle?

According to Crvlwanek's script, "later" is the best word to start with. This was followed by the words alter, alert, and arose. Irate, which was the aforementioned linguist's idea for the best word to start with, popped up as fifth on the list. As you might have noticed, the best words to start with are much more user-friendly and common when compared with xylyl. Other questionable words to use at the beginning include fluffy, gyppy, and yukky.

Crvlwanek did mention in the comments that this custom computer script only assigns values to letters that appear, rather than recognizing any kind of longterm strategy. The game differentiates between letters that are in the daily word and the placement of these words with yellow and green boxes. Green boxes are much more valuable, because the player then knows the letter and where that letter goes. Crvlwanek explained that they're working on trying to get the script to recognize the difference and find the best (and worst) words with that gameplay element included in its process.

Less-than-honorable mentions

As Crvlwanek quickly discovered, there are plenty of unhelpful words to start a round with, but there were some that stood out among the worst, simply because of their strangeness and rarity. While none were quite as bizarre as xylyl, a couple of close runner-ups were deemed just as unusable.

As revealed in a follow-up TikTok clip, "Imshi" was another word that Crvlwanek simply recommended avoiding. According to The Free Dictionary, imshi is an Arabic word that means "to go away" or "be off" — a fitting definition for a word that you don't want to use.

In a similar fashion, you don't want to use the word "aflaj." In case you haven't brushed up on your agricultural history, aflaj is the name of a specific type of irrigation system that uses water from nearby mountains and directs it through specific channels (via Defintions.net.) This is known to be used hundreds of years ago in Oman, a country on the Southeastern tip of the Arabian peninsula.

These words have popped up in a few different runs of the "Wordle" algorithm from Crvlwanek, proving that you're better off not even trying them. That is, if you were even familiar with them in the first place.

Crvlwanek's science is still up in the air

Since January, Crvlwanek has changed up the algorithm a bit. While his first try didn't include much information about the positioning of letters, he's since been able to program a way for the algorithm to look at a variety of different things that changed the outcome of the worst words.

Still, it's worth keeping in mind that finding the worst starting word doesn't necessarily crack the code of making "Wordle" easier. The whole point of the game is to narrow down the possibilities until you find the right word. However, the worst words don't eliminate too many possibilities, so they're pretty useless. 

For instance, in a later algorithm, the words "xylyl" and "yukky" popped up, as did new words like "immix" and "jujus." These words are also particularly bad since they have a lot of repeating letters — players would get even less usable information by even trying these words. Basically, learning the worst "Wordle" words is less of a strategy and more of a fun experiment in morbid curiosity.