The best Wordle start words are the key to beating the game and avoiding the need to search for today's Wordle answer.
Without a good start word, your streak is at risk — and nobody wants to lose all that hard wordle work. In fact, I lost my Wordle streak without losing or missing a game, which is pretty frustrating. Plus, even if you're a bit of a Wordle expert by now, having a great start word will help you turn 4/6s into 3/6s (possibly even 2/6s). Even the NYT's brilliant WordleBot tool — sadly now behind a paywall — recognizes the importance of a good start word.
I've written before about how I've played every Wordle so far and lost only once, and No. 1 on my list of tips is to use a good starting word. So that's what I'll discuss here.
Read on and I'll explain what the best Wordle start words are, the math behind them and what alternatives to try.
Most common letters
Best Wordle start words: Most common letters
Before we dive into the list of the words, let’s break down the science behind it.
You don’t have to be a genius to realize that it's a good idea to use letters that occur more frequently in English. For example, you're more likely to find an “A” in the word than a “Z.”
In a research paper on English Letter Frequency Counts, Peter Norvig, director of research at Google, analyzed the data from Google Books to put together a list of most commonly used letters in the English language. His findings concluded that “E”, “T” and “A” were the top three, while “J”, “Q” and “Z” were the least common.
However, that list is based on words in general, rather than Wordle answers — so to really find out which letters feature most frequently in the game, you'd need to analyze them all.
Fortunately, that's easy to do. Because Wordle's answers are all freely available in the website's HTML code, it's pretty simple to download them, then do a bit of number crunching. This is the list of most most frequently used letters that you get when you do that:
Note that the list above is based on correct Wordle answers, rather than Wordle words; the game accepts some 15,000-plus words as guesses, but only 2,309 are valid solutions.
That's interesting, then, but it's just the appetizer for the best Wordle start word main course to follow…
Best Wordle start words
What are the best Wordle start words?
Several people have attempted to use math to determine the best Wordle start words.
One of them was programmer and game designer Tyler Glaiel, who assigned each letter in Wordle's 12,972 possible guesses a score of 0, 1 or 2, based on whether it is included in one of the 2,309 answers or not, and whether it is in the right place.
After checking all 12,972 words, the algorithm determined that the best starting options are:
For reasons that are too complex to go into here, Glaiel concludes that ROATE is the best Wordle start word if you want to rule out possible answers as quickly as possible.
However, because ROATE doesn't actually feature in Wordle's possible answers list itself, you'll never get a 1/6 with it. For that reason, Glaiel recommends starting with RAISE.
Programmer Bertrand Fan took a similar approach and unsurprisingly came up with a very similar list:
Given that the top three don't feature in Wordle's possible answers list, that would make STARE the statistically best Wordle start word, based on Fan's analysis at least.
Coincidentally, Stare is the word independently picked by some of the Tom's Guide team months ago, without having seen that research, so that's the one we'd go for.
That decision was instead based on common sense; after all, S is the most common first letter among Wordle answers, A is the most common third letter and E the most common fifth letter. T and R, meanwhile, are the two most common consonants overall in the game.
So there you have it — for the Tom's Guide team at least, the best Wordle start word is STARE.
Though, a pair of MIT researchers have their own pick: SALET (a light medieval helmet). That also gives you five of the top 10 letters, but we're not as keen on it as STARE — as R is the third-most-used letter, and L is the sixth-most-used. A good alternate for sure.
The best Wordle start word according to WordleBot
The NYT's excellent WordleBot tool has its own list of the best Wordle start words — and it should know, given it's made by the people who now run Wordle.
Originally, the math behind it was based on how many of Wordle's 2,309 solutions are left, on average, after you play it, plus the average number of steps needed to solve it and a couple of other metrics.
However, the WordleBot was updated in August 2022; it no longer knows the original solutions, but instead , "it assigns roughly 3,150 relatively common English words a probability of being a Wordle solution, based on what it has observed about the words that have been solutions so far," according to the New York Times.
"We then assign each of roughly 3,150 words a probability of being a solution, based in part on word frequency in New York Times archives dating to 2000 and on what the bot has observed about the words that have been solutions so far."
As a result of those changes, WordleBot now considers SLATE to be the best opening word, followed closely by LEAST (when playing in Hard mode).
A while back, the best starting word was CRANE, which goes to show how the words that have been used has changed the metrics. Another excellent starting word, according to the Times, is DEALT.
Here are some of WordleBot's favorite starting words:
- SLATE (99)
- TRACE (99)
- CARTE (99)
- SLANT (99)
- CRATE (98)
- CRANE (98)
- LEAST (98)
- CARET (98)
- STALE (98)
Vowels and Wordle
Should your Wordle start word have lots of vowels?
Some people swear by playing the likes of ADIEU, AUDIO, ABOUT, CANOE or OUIJA, as they let you use up three or four vowels at the start.
This can be a good alternative approach, as (almost) every Wordle answer has at least one vowel so it makes sense to identify it as soon as possible. But I wouldn't personally go down that route. ADIEU is not a Wordle answer, so you'll never get a 1/6 with that. AUDIO is decent, but it doesn't contain an E — which is not just the most common vowel but also the most common letter in the game. Ditto ABOUT.
CANOE isn't bad, but C and N are nowhere near as common as S, T or R when it comes to consonants, so what you gain in one aspect you lose in the other. And OUIJA is just a silly suggestion: it doesn't have an E but it does have a J, which is the second least likely letter to feature in the game at all.
However, vowels are very important in the game in general, so consider them strongly when thinking of a second word. Speaking of which…
Best Wordle second words
What about the best follow-up word?
Of course sometimes even a great start word won't earn you any yellow or green results. If that happens, you'll need a good second word.
Which you choose will obviously depend on what your first word was, as you won't want to repeat any letters you've already used. But if I assume you're following this advice (you're going to do so, right) and using STARE as your Wordle start word, I'd recommend PHONY, COULD or DOING as good second options.
PHONY is a statistically better option as a second word, because Y is one of the most frequent fifth letters. However, COULD and DOING both use two vowels, and playing your vowels early is always a good strategy, as described above.
Of course, starting words can only take you so far. There's a lot more you can learning about Wordle simply by using math, and I've done just that. In fact, I analyzed every Wordle answer to look for patterns — here's what I found.
I've also put together a list of the best Wordle alternatives in case the original game proves either too easy or too difficult for your taste.
Read next: Your Wordle streak is about to get a multi-device boost — here's how to get it set up