Are you tired of struggling to find the perfect starting word in Wordle? Look no further! In this article, we will explore the optimal strategies and expert recommendations for selecting the best word to kickstart your Wordle journey. From focusing on vowels to analyzing letter frequencies, we have got you covered. Whether you're a Wordle novice or a seasoned player, these insights will surely enhance your gameplay and increase your chances of solving the daily puzzle. So, let's dive in and discover the secrets to finding the perfect Wordle starting word!

Is it beneficial for your Wordle starting word to contain many vowels?

Certain individuals advocate for using words like ADIEU, AUDIO, ABOUT, CANOE, or OUIJA as the starting word in Wordle since they allow you to utilize three or four vowels right away.

This strategy can be a viable alternative since almost every Wordle answer contains at least one vowel. It makes sense to identify it as early as possible. However, I personally wouldn't recommend following that approach. ADIEU is not a valid Wordle answer, so you'll never achieve a 1/6 with it. AUDIO is decent, but it lacks an E, which is not only the most common vowel but also the most common letter in the game. The same goes for ABOUT.

CANOE is not bad, but the letters C and N are not as common as S, T, or R when it comes to consonants. Therefore, you gain in one aspect while losing in the other. Moreover, OUIJA is just a frivolous suggestion. It lacks an E but includes a J, which is the second least likely letter in the game.

That being said, vowels play a crucial role in the game overall. Hence, it is wise to consider them carefully when selecting a second word. Speaking of which...

Optimal choices for the second word in Wordle

How should we approach Wordle starting word strategies?

Let's begin by considering the big picture. The alphabet consists of 26 letters, including five (and occasionally the letter "Y") that function as vowels, forming the foundation of most words.

Thus, at a fundamental level, any combination of five letters that allows you to eliminate multiple vowels at the start will significantly reduce the pool of possible answers.

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With this basic concept in mind, a few ideal starting words immediately come to mind. Although there are others, ADIEU, AUDIO, and OUIJA all consist of four vowels. While it is unknown if any yellow or green letters repeat, such as in the words "sweet" or "radar," these word choices allow you to identify some critical letters right from the start.

Credit: Brandon Bell / Staff via Getty Images

This should be sufficient for most individuals. Starting with words that consist of many vowels will provide you with an advantage in solving Wordle puzzles. However, it's not that straightforward either, as not all letters are equally common(opens in a new tab). While vowels appear in almost every word, some are more prevalent than others. The same applies to consonants.

The Wordle dictionary also plays a role. The game recognizes over 10,000 words as valid guesses, but only a few thousand are actual solutions. The NYT even narrowed down the list of solutions after acquiring Wordle. Therefore, using a more obscure word like AUREI (the plural form of aureus(opens in a new tab), an ancient Roman gold coin) as a guess may not yield the correct answer for the day.

If relying heavily on vowels is insufficient and you want to cover some of the more common consonants as well, starting with the word RAISE is optimal. It includes the three most common vowels and the two most common consonants found in dictionaries.

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What is truly the best starting word in Wordle?

For those who wish to avoid feeling like they're cheating at Wordle(opens in a new tab), you might want to stop reading here. The strategies and thought processes mentioned above are already sufficient to give you an advantage in solving the daily puzzles, which should be satisfactory for most players.

However, for those who want to delve deeper into the intricacies of the game, there is an excellent video by Grant Sanderson(opens in a new tab), a mathematician and computer scientist known as 3Blue1Brown on YouTube. Sanderson applies his knowledge of "information theory" to Wordle and has developed testing programs that measure factors such as letter frequency to determine the best starting words.

The video is rather dense, lasting 30 minutes, and contains complex mathematical explanations. However, Sanderson's friendly demeanor and dedication to simplifying complex ideas for viewers make it a fascinating watch.

In this initial video, Sanderson determines that the optimal Wordle starting word is CRANE. However, it's not as simple as that. Sanderson's breakdown focuses on letter frequency, and CRANE is only the first step in gathering information. Its status as the "best" word depends on utilizing the information obtained from the first guess to make a perfect second guess.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Is your head spinning yet? Do you regret not stopping after the first section? Well, that's exactly how I feel! But wait, we're not done yet.

A week after publishing the aforementioned video, Sanderson released another one titled "Oh, wait, actually the best Wordle opener is not 'crane'...." It turns out that there was a small bug in his test program, which, as he clarifies upfront, only affects a very small percentage of cases. Hence, the bug doesn't significantly impact the lessons learned from the original video.

Without delving too much into the complex math, the bug is related to solutions that include duplicate letters and how Wordle handles them.

Sanderson felt the need to create a second video because, although very little substance had changed from the original video, the ultimate conclusion regarding the optimal starting word was affected. The same caveat from before applies here as well: the effectiveness of an optimal starting word relies on how well the subsequent guesses utilize the information obtained from the first one.

Considering this context, Sanderson's revised choice for the ideal starting word is SALET (an alternate spelling for "sallet," a type of helmet worn during the Middle Ages #themoreyouknow). TRACE and CRATE also work quite well. Additionally, both TRACE and CRATE have the potential to be actual Wordle solutions.

Honestly, one of the most significant takeaways from these mathematical explorations is the notion I mentioned earlier: the strength of your first guess depends on how effectively it informs your subsequent guesses. In the end, that's the essence of Wordle: each guess provides information that must be used to narrow down the list of possible answers.

However! (Yes, there's more.) There's another approach to tackling Wordle. Instead of playing the game as intended and using each previous guess to inform the next one, you can focus solely on letter frequency to eliminate the most common letters, regardless of any clues you gain.

This strategy effectively "wastes" your initial guesses on predetermined choices meant to reduce the number of possible letters you have to work with. It's important to note that this approach will not work in "hard mode" since each subsequent guess must include any confirmed letters from the previous guess.

The Strategy Behind the Optimal Wordle Starting Words

Wordle experts recommend selecting words with a high vowel count as your initial guess in Wordle. The rationale behind this is simple: the English alphabet only contains five vowels, and most words include one or more of them. By identifying which vowels are present in the puzzle, you can quickly narrow down the list of potential solution words.

Wordle puzzle on a smartphone

By following this logic, words such as "ouija," "adieu," "audio," and "raise" would be ideal initial guesses in a game of Wordle. However, this approach has its drawbacks. More analytical methods suggest that the vowel-first strategy is flawed for the same reasons why players find it appealing. With thousands of words containing vowels, identifying an E or an A in your Wordle puzzle won't significantly improve your chances of solving that day's puzzle.

Some players prefer words with a higher concentration of consonants, such as "nymph," "fjord," "waltz," "gybes," and "quick," in order to eliminate as many letters as possible within the six guesses. However, this approach is also flawed, as Wordle answers often feature repeated letters, like "trite" or "runny."

Others try word choices like "train," "roast," "irate," or "roate" since they contain commonly occurring letters. However, when the answer is a word like "jazzy" or "khaki," this strategy falls short.

So, if these strategies are ineffective, what should you do?

The Top Wordle Starter Words According to Experts

At first glance, one wouldn't expect a word game to attract mathematicians and data analysts. However, as Wordle is also a game of probability, it has drawn a crowd of such individuals.

Various theories have been proposed to determine the best starting word for a game of Wordle, and the results are intriguing. Here are some of the top Wordle starting words, according to experts.

1. Crane

According to Grant Sanderson, a popular mathematician YouTuber known as 3Blue1Brown, the optimal Wordle starting word is "crane."

For those curious about the mathematical methodology behind this choice, the summary is as follows. Sanderson explains the concept of information theory by simulating various words using the Wordle answer sheet. Through this simulation, he concludes that "crane" results in the fewest average follow-up guesses. It may be anticlimactic after all the mathematical effort, but sometimes the mundane holds the magic. The New York Times' WordleBot, an AI tool designed to assist players in Wordle, also considers "crane" as one of the best starting words.

2. Salet

Another mathematician, Alex Selby, asserts on his website that "salet" is the optimal starting word for Wordle according to his algorithm-based strategy.

According to Selby's algorithm, starting with "salet" yields the fewest average number of remaining solutions, with an average of 3.42 attempts needed to reach the correct word. Grant Sanderson of 3Blue1Brown corroborates this conclusion in a subsequent analysis reaffirming the best word choice for starting Wordle.

Currently, WordleBot's top recommendation for a Wordle starting word is a similar option: "slate." It has a slightly different letter arrangement but offers similar chances of eliminating remaining solutions.

3. Trace

Daniel Kats, a machine learning researcher who analyzed the Wordle answer sheet and documented his findings on GitHub, suggests that "trace" leaves the fewest number of remaining possible solutions when used as the starting word in Wordle. According to Kats' research, players typically require an average of 3.58 attempts to arrive at the correct word after beginning with "trace" as their initial guess.

WordleBot also ranks "trace" highly as a starting word for Wordle.

The Best Overall Wordle Starting Words

What are the optimal words to start Wordle?

Officially, the best starting word for Wordle is SLATE.

I use the term "officially" because SLATE is the choice of WordleBot, an AI tool developed by the New York Times to enhance Wordle gameplay. WordleBot rates SLATE as a skill level of 99 out of 100, the highest score it awards. However, WordleBot assigns the same ranking to CRANE, CRATE, SLANT, TRACE, and CARTE, making any of these six words excellent choices for starting a game of Wordle.

Alternatively, researchers at MIT have calculated that the best word to start Wordle is SALET. Read more about that below.

The Best Mathematical Approach to Wordle Starting Words

It's easy to understand why WordleBot selects these six words once you analyze the 2,309 possible answers in Wordle.

During my time working for TechRadar's sister site, Tom's Guide, I personally performed this analysis by delving into Wordle's code and searching for patterns among the solutions.

Through this analysis, I discovered that the most common letters in Wordle, in order, are E, A, R, O, and T.

Most common letters in Wordle overall

  • E (appears in Wordle answers 1,230 times)
  • A (975)
  • R (897)
  • O (753)
  • T (729)
  • L (716)
  • I (670)
  • S (668)
  • N (573)
  • C (475)
The most common starting letters, on the other hand, are S, C, B, T, and P. I also analyzed the most common letters in positions #2, #3, #4, and at the end of the answer. Here are the top 5 letters for each of those categories:

Most common starting letters in Wordle

  • S (365)
  • C (198)
  • B (173)
  • P (149)
  • T (141)
Most common second letters in Wordle
  • A (304)
  • O (279)
  • R (267)
  • E (241)
  • I (201)
Most common middle letters in Wordle
  • A (306)
  • I (266)
  • O (243)
  • E (177)
  • U (165)
Most common fourth letters in Wordle
  • E (318)
  • N (182)
  • S (171)
  • A (162)
  • L (162)
Most common ending letters in Wordle
  • E (422)
  • Y (364)
  • T (253)
  • R (212)
  • L (155)
What can we glean from this data? Taking the top letter in each position does not provide much insight, as it would result in the nonsensical word SAAEE. However, once we eliminate made-up words, we are left with SLATE as the best choice.Wordle 251

Why is SLATE ideal? When you sum up the number of times each letter appears in each position across a range of answers, S obtains a total of 365, L obtains 200, and so on. By this method, SLATE achieves the highest overall score of 1,432.

You don't have to be a math whiz to recognize the logic behind it. After all, S is by far the most common starting letter, and all the other letters are highly prevalent throughout the game.

Personally, I prefer words that include an R instead of an L, as R frequently appears in words ending in -ER. My go-to starting word for the majority of my time playing Wordle has been STARE, which WordleBot also approves of.

Does it work? Well, based on my nearly 500-day streak, yes!

Top Wordle Starting Words According to MIT

While I'm not a mathematical genius, you can refer to the findings of real experts to discover the best starting words for Wordle.

For example, researchers at MIT have published a paper stating that SALET is definitively the best starting word for Wordle.

If you're not familiar with the term SALET, you're not alone. It refers to a 15th-century helmet. However, more importantly, Wordle does accept SALET as a valid guess.

According to the researchers, SALET outperforms SLATE by 1% in terms of narrowing down the list of possible solutions in Wordle. On average, a player starting with SALET will solve Wordle in 3.421 attempts.

However, if you choose to start with SALET every day, you will never achieve the coveted 1/6 result since it is not one of the 2,309 possible answers in Wordle. Similarly, CRATE, SLATE, and TRACE have all been past Wordle answers, so you may want to avoid them for the same reason. Also, CARTE is not a valid answer.

With all this in mind, SLANT and CRANE may be the best Wordle starting words overall. Both are highly rated by WordleBot, with a skill level of 99.

In conclusion, finding the optimal starting word in Wordle can be a complex task. While strategies based on high vowel count or letter frequency can offer advantages, they also have their limitations. Experts and analysis suggest words like "crane," "salet," and "trace" as top choices, but ultimately, the best starting word may depend on individual preferences and gameplay style. Whether you're a mathematician diving into data or a casual player looking for a fun challenge, Wordle offers something for everyone. So go ahead and give it a try, experiment with different starting words, and see where your guessing skills will take you. Happy Wordling!