Six guesses, five letters, infinite boasting rights. Since the word puzzle Wordle first released publicly online in October 2021, it has become a blockbuster hit. The principle of the game is simple: each player has six chances to guess one five-letter word. After each guess, the letters change color: green for right letter, right location; yellow for right letter, wrong location; and gray for wrong letter. Designer Josh Wardle deliberately decided to use common, everyday words in his puzzle, but every so often Wordle will throw players a curveball.
One early example of a weird Wordle answer that caused controversy on social media was rebus, a word from Latin meaning “a representation of a word or phrase by pictures, symbols, etc., that suggest that word or phrase or its syllables.” The word tapir also sparked a stir. (A tapir is an adorable mammal that lives in Central and South America.) Folks argued that these words were too obscure to be fair Wordle answers, but the trend of using tricky words has continued. Some players even believe there has been a greater proportion of weird Wordle answers since the game migrated to the New York Times in January 2022.
Let’s take a look at some of the other weird Wordle answers that have baffled and frustrated players over the nearly a year of its existence so far.
The adverb askew [ uh–skyoo ] means “to one side; out of line; in a crooked position; awry.” The word askew ultimately comes from the Middle Dutch schuwen, which means “to get out of the way, shun.” This Middle Dutch word is derived from the word for “shy” in that language, schuw. We can hear an echo of this root in the modern English verb eschew, meaning “to avoid.”
The word knoll [ nohl ] has a silent K that makes it difficult to spell. Knoll means “a small, rounded hill; hillock.” Funnily enough, the word knoll comes from the same root as the Dutch word for “turnip,” knol, and the Danish word for “tuber,” knold. It may also be related to the German word for “dumpling.” Quite a smorgasbord of food references!
One of the more menacing Wordle answers so far is smite, a verb meaning “to strike or hit hard.” Smite is particularly associated with an action a god would take against a mortal, such as to kill, destroy, or otherwise punish. This sense of smite is old, dating to circa 1150, but it is still familiar to us today because it is used in many contemporary translations of religious texts, like the Bible.
Another term with Biblical connotations that made for a weird Wordle answer is piety, “reverence for God or devout fulfillment of religious obligations.” In addition to being something of an obscure word, piety is a tricky Wordle answer because of its three vowels, I, E and Y.
Crafters may be the only Wordle players familiar with the unusual answer epoxy, short for epoxy resin, a kind of plastic used in adhesives, insulation, and other commercial applications. The word epoxy [ ih-pok-see ] comes from a combination of two combining forms, epi- and oxy-. Epi- means “upon” or “near,” and it is used in chemical terminology to denote substances of analogous composition. The form oxy- means “acid.” Epoxy literally translates to “near-acid.”
Speaking of combining forms, players complained that the answer ultra was unfair, because ultra is simply a prefix, not a word unto itself. (Think: ultra-rich or ultra-weird.) However, the word ultra does have a meaning, both as an adjective and a noun. As an adjective, ultra means “excessive.” As a noun, it means “an extremist.”
Another kind of Wordle answer that can frustrate players are those that are adopted from other languages and are therefore considered English words. One example of this is primo, which comes from the Italian for “first.” It has been adopted into English slang to mean “first-class” or “highly valuable or most essential.”
Words from French that have been adopted into English are similarly frustrating for Wordle players. The word madam recently caused some annoyance, as did foyer. Foyer can be pronounced either [ foi-er ] or [ foi-ey ] in English, which doesn’t make it any easier to spell. In English, a foyer is “a vestibule or entrance hall in a house or apartment.” In the original French, foyer means “fireplace” or “hearth.”
While not a foreign word per se, duchy [ duhch-ee ] is another one of those words that can be tricky to spell or sound out. If you are unfamiliar with the word duchy, you are not alone; it means “the territory ruled by a duke or duchess,” not something many of us come across on a regular basis in the 21st century.
Sometimes, it is not the obscurity of the word but the spelling itself that makes it a weird Wordle answer. This is the case with the word natal, with its unusual A+consonant+A spelling. Natal means “of or relating to a person’s birth.” The Latin root of natal pops up again in the popular name Natalie, from a Latin word meaning “birthday.”
Some Wordle answers are weird because they include a number of unusual, or less-frequent, letters. Such is the case with gawky, which means “awkward; ungainly; clumsy.” Gawky has a G, W, K, and Y, all of which are letters people may not think to guess. The word gawky ultimately comes from the Old English word for “fool.”
Occasionally, a Wordle will feature a letter that is used more than once, as in natal or knoll. However, the word sissy really tested Wordle players because it uses the letter S three times. Further, sissy is a disparaging and offensive term—a kind of controversy Wordle typically tries to avoid. While the word sissy is generally used to mean “a timid or cowardly person,” it can particularly refer to “an effeminate boy or man.”
You can review all of these weird Wordle answers and their meanings with our word list here. To test your knowledge of these terms, try our Weird Wordle Word quiz here. And the next time you come across a weird Wordle term that has you stumped, you may want to try looking it up here at Dictionary.com to help you out. Don’t worry—we won’t tell anyone you peeked.