Six-letter stems

The secret to playing the big bonus-scoring words is … you’ve got to know them! Obvious really, but you won’t always get a nice simple word like RETAINS or ENTAILS popping onto your rack. You might end up with a rack like ETESIAN (a Mediterranean wind), GENITOR (biological father, as in progenitor) or VENTILS (valves on a musical instrument). But if you don’t know it’s a word, you won’t be able to play it.

The trouble is there are over 34,000 seven-letter words to learn … A lot of players have embraced the concept of six-letter stems as a way of learning seven-letter words that are likely to come up. This means taking a combination of six letters which you are likely to get on your rack, and which combine with a lot of other letters to make a seven-letter word, and learning those sevens.

To take the best of the six-letter stems, RETAIN goes with every letter except A, Q, V, X, Y and Z to form at least one seven-letter word. Learn them all, and you will automatically have your seven if your rack reads RETAIN with any of the other twenty letters. Here are some of them – a definition is given for the more unusual anagrams.

+B:         ATEBRIN malaria drug

+C:         CERTAIN

NACRITE mineral

+D:         TRAINED

ANTIRED a particular colour of antiquark

+E:         TRAINEE

ARENITE type of rock

+F:         FAINTER

FENITAR plant with spurred flowers


GRATINE cooked au gratin


THERIAN from Theria, a subclass of mammal

+I:          INERTIA

+J:        JANTIER. from janty, an old word for jaunty

NARTJIE tangerine

+K:         KERATIN

+L:          LATRINE

TRENAIL peg used in carpentry

+M:         MINARET

MERANTI Malaysian wood

+N:         ENTRAIN

TRANNIE transistor radio

+O:         NOTAIRE

OTARINE from otary, a type of seal





+S:        RETAINS

ANESTRI from anestrus, a period of infertility in some animals

+T:       NATTIER



TAURINE bull-like



By Barry Grossman

Barry is a leading UK Scrabble player and winner of several tournaments. He is the author of Scrabble for Beginners (Chambers), Need to Know Scrabble, Scrabble – Play to Win and The Little Book of Scrabble Trickster. He has also contributed to numerous other books on the subject of words and word-games, has been a series champion of Channel 4’s Countdown, and has written four comedy series for BBC Radio 4. He lives in Hertford.

All opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of Collins, or its parent company, HarperCollins.

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