What’s the Gaelic for Scrabble? Firstport awardee An Taigh Cèilidh launch new licensed edition of Gaelic Scrabble board

Scottish Gaelic isn’t renowned for its easy spelling, but speakers and learners can now put their knowledge to the test with a new licensed edition Gaelic version of the world-famous board game, Scrabble.

With only 18 characters in the Gaelic alphabet (Gaelic doesn’t use J, K, Q, V, W, X, Y or Z), Scrabble is taken to a new level as these letters will be removed for authentic Gaelic gameplay.

After looking at the frequencies of different letters in Gaelic and many test games, An Taigh Cèilidh, the Gaelic cultural centre and community café in Stornoway worked with Tinderbox Games in London to license a Gaelic version of the game. The board and rules are in Gaelic, the number of letters reflects the frequency of use in Gaelic, and the letter scores match how difficult it is to use the letters to spell a Gaelic word. The grave accent also appears on some of the vowel tiles, i.e. À È Ì Ò Ù.

Dr Teàrlach Wilson, the founding director of An Taigh Cèilidh, approached Tinderbox Games in 2021 to ask if there was a Scottish Gaelic version of Scrabble available, and, if not, could An Taigh Cèilidh help bring it to fruition. Dr Wilson’s PhD is in Gaelic, and, as a fluent Welsh speaker, he has played many games of the Welsh version of Scrabble.

Image of Tearlach
Dr Teàrlach Wilson proudly holds the Gaelic Scrabble board he helped create

Academic research has also shown that Scrabble is an effective and fun way to teach literacy in any given language, and it therefore can help to popularise the revitalisation of minority and indigenous languages. Despite being invented in 1948, the game has endured for 75 years, as Scrabble continues to be one of the most iconic games in the world by fostering meaningful connections across generations, harnessing the power of words, and celebrating the benefits of positive expression.

Image of two people playing Gaelic Scrabble
Excited players play Gaelic Scrabble

The UK is one of over 120 countries where Scrabble is sold, and around half of British households have at least one set of Scrabble (including the Welsh version). Scrabble is available in 28 languages, which means that Gaelic is joining an international family of languages as number 29 and the third Celtic language after Welsh and Irish.

To launch Gaelic Scrabble, An Taigh Cèilidh hosted the first-ever Gaelic Scrabble World Championships on Saturday 9 December.

Gaelic Scrabble is available to buy for £39.99 a set.

An Taigh Cèilidh is a Gaelic cultural centre and community café in Stornoway, Outer Hebrides. The not-for-profit community project is modelled on the ceilidh house, and their income surplus goes into supporting Gaelic language and culture, such as recording local oral traditions, holding community events, publishing local books, and offering educational/wellbeing activities. An Taigh Cèilidh is at 16 Church Street, Stornoway HS1 2DH.