The Best And Worst Words In Wordle

Written by Ben Wendt

Wordle is a popular word deduction game. The aim is to guess a word given six guesses. You can only guess valid English words that are in wordle’s dictionary. Each wrong guess will yield hints. A letter highlighted in yellow indicates it matches the target word somewhere. A letter marked in green indicates the correct letter in the correct position. I feel like a branching strategy (preferably choosing from common letters) is the best. But what word should you start with? And what is the worst word to start with?

Using the timeless magic of “inspect element” I grabbed the complete dictionary of 10657 words wordle considers to be valid (compare this to 10230 in my /usr/share/dict/words on mac). Wordle’s word list is pretty liberal with what it considers to be a valid English word, containing things like:

So what is the best and worst word to start? The rules of the game mean that the first guess will be best when it draws from the most common letters in the dictionary. So what are the most common letters in wordle’s set of five letter words? Here’s the distribution:

wordle letter frequency

We can see here that z, j, x, q are the least commonly used letters, but words also need vowels, and y is the least common vowel. Unfortunately, no words use only there letters. Through trial and error of adding more commonly used letters, I found the word xylyl, which draws mostly from uncommon letters, but I wanted to be a bit more sure.

Here’s a couple methods that calculate two words “yellow” and “green” scores:

def yellow_matches(w, x):
    return len(set(w).intersection(x))

def green_matches(w, x):
    return len([z for (y, z) in zip(w, x) if y == z])

Using this we can check each words score against all other words. Sorting by yellows, then greens gives these best starting words:

word yellow green
aeros 20698 7505
soare 20698 5610
reais 20402 7482
serai 20402 4800
aesir 20402 3618
aloes 20092 7774
toeas 19992 8021
stoae 19992 4119
lares 19926 9414
rales 19926 9149

Or sorted by greens, then yellows:

word yellow green
sores 16277 9982
sanes 16625 9914
sales 16854 9825
sones 15442 9772
soles 15671 9683
bares 18712 9661
cares 18932 9649
pares 18999 9642
sates 16754 9594
tares 19826 9591

So it looks like “aeros” and “sores” are good starting words. I don’t think the actual winning words ever end with ‘s’, so let’s look at those options. Most yellows:

word yellow green
soare 20698 5610
serai 20402 4800
aesir 20402 3618
stoae 19992 4119
laser 19926 5371
seral 19926 4851
taser 19826 5548
strae 19826 4405
earst 19826 4044
resat 19826 3747

Most greens:

word yellow green
saree 17460 7300
soree 16277 7158
sared 19388 6907
sored 18205 6765
sooey 14819 6711
saned 18553 6697
boree 12211 6695
raree 12142 6624
laree 14608 6590
samey 17572 6554

And now let’s look at the worst starting options:

word yellow green
xylyl 4330 1425
fuffy 4376 2751
gyppy 4396 2382
hyphy 4482 2118
cocco 4710 3467

Those look like some terrible options to start with, but today I started with “aeros”, and the correct answer was “proxy”. I think I would have been better off starting with the “xy” from “xylyl” as those are higher value letters.