What is Wordle? Everything you need to know

Anastasios Antoniadis

Wordle has been around for months, and it has become one of the most viral games in 2022. While Wordle is a simple word game at its core, its simplicity combined with the occasional challenge it brings to the game have made it a massive hit.

What is Wordle?

Wordle is an online daily word game that is now part of the New York Times’ word game collection. You can find and play Wordle here.

One of the main appeals of Wordle and also a reason that prevents player fatigue is the fact that you can only play once a game. Wordle will never take too much of your time, even if you want it to.

Due to the game’s massive success, several clones have appeared, including Wordle Unlimited, which allows you to play as many times as you want per day. Proceed with caution if you cannot resist the challenge.

Going back to the original Wordle, a new 5-letter word pops up daily for players to guess. The game features a 6×5 grid, so players have six opportunities to guess the correct word.

Every time the player enters a new 5-letter word, they will receive feedback for each of the 5-letters related to its presence in the word and its position:

  • If the letter is present in the 5-letter word and the player guessed its position correctly, it will be marked green.
  • If the letter is present, but the player guessed the position wrong, it will be marked yellow.
  • If the letter is not present in the word, it will be marked dark gray.

Players must take advantage of these three rules and take advantage of probabilities as some letters appear more frequently than others in words (e.g., vowels like A, E, I, and O) to beat the game.

As a player, you will need to find the correct position for letters appearing in the word and eliminate as many letters as possible to narrow down your selection and bring the right 5-letter word home.

The first five words serve as burner entries that will provide clues to the player. The players must rotate yellow letters around until they find the right post to eventually turn them green while ruling out as many letters as possible by avoiding the reuse of already identified or eliminated letters.

Still, finding the correct answer can be a very close call with so many words being almost identical (e.g., YEAST, FEAST, LEAST, BEAST).

Wordle’s popularity

Millions of players play Wordle daily. Its limited once-per-day availability makes it fit in one’s daily routine very easily to the point it has become part of pop culture.

Players look for hints and clues daily, with some even directly searching for “today’s wordle answer” to keep their daily streak alive and compete with friends.

The ease of sharing their results on social media and brag makes this simple word game even more compelling and encourages players to share their results with others.

Wordle 278 4/6

Wordle tips and tricks

There are many approaches to Wordle but starting with the right word, i.e., the one that will provide the most clues, is crucial. For instance, many players start with words like IRATE or ADIEU as they provide valuable clues about the word’s vowels.

I tend to start with the word CRAVE, as it doesn’t provide that many clues about vowel presence and positioning, but this decision can bite back.

Wordle also features a hard mode, in which you must use all revealed hints in subsequent guesses. For example, if your first word revealed three letters, e.g., 2 green ones and a yellow one, you must use all three of them in the next guess and only rotate the yellow letter.

Avoiding the hard mode allows you to use options like entirely different words, e.g., SHIFT, POUND, to eliminate many letters and narrow down vowel usage.

Image source: New York Times

Letter frequency and solving Wordle

All this comes down to a linguistic analysis of the English language and letter frequency, as some letters appear more frequently than others; for instance, far more words contain the letter “A” than the letter “Y.”

Here are some statistical facts about the frequency of English letters in words:

  • The most commonly used letters of the English language are e, t, a, i, o, n, s, h, and r.
  • The letters that most commonly appear at the beginning of words are t, a, o, d, and w.
  • The letters that most commonly appear at the end of words are e, s, d, and t.

Based on the above stats, it’s clear why IRATE is a great word to start with, just like RETAIN would be in a six-letter game.

Once again, I will reiterate that you should by no means reuse dark-grayed out letters, even if you believe that the word you are about to type in will provide a valuable clue. 

Squeezing your brain for an alternative will probably get you even closer to the correct word.

Josh Wardle Wordle’s Creator

Josh Wardle created Wordle for his girlfriend Palak Shah to make her time during COVID-19 lockdowns more entertaining (#couplegoals). Wardle is a British software engineer brought up in Abergavenny, Wales.

Wardle is a resident of New York these days, where he works as a software engineer at the MSCHF art collective.

Wardle came up with Wordle’s prototype back in 2013 while working at Reddit and perfected in 2021, as he wanted to create a word game similar to the ones offered by New York Times with Shah and his family.

Wardle made the game publicly available in October 2021, and by 2022 it had reached more than 2 million daily users.

In January 2022, The New Work Times Company announced its acquisition of Wordle for an undisclosed amount in the low seven figures.

The game has remained the same in form and spirit, and free since its NYT acquisition.

Anastasios Antoniadis
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