Best Wordle starting words for a great first guess

Wordle on a smartphone showing the first word BEGIN
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Choosing the best Wordle starting words can be a tricky business. Do you pack it with vowels and go for something like AUDIO or ADIEU? Do you go for common consonants and start with STARE or CRATE? Or do you pick randomly each day?

Whatever your approach, a good start word will help you avoid needing to search for today's Wordle answer. A clever opening guess can be the difference between getting the answer in two guesses or losing your streak - so don't mess it up.

I've been playing Wordle since December 2021 and have spent many, many hours digging into the math behind the best starting words so I can help you improve your game. Here's what you need to know. 

The best Wordle starting words overall

What are the best words to start Wordle?

Officially, the best Wordle starting word is SLATE.

I say 'officially', because SLATE is the choice of WordleBot, an AI tool designed by the New York Times to help you improve your Wordle game.

WordleBot rates SLATE as 99/100 for skill, the highest score it awards. However, it gives the same ranking to CRANE, CRATE, SLANT, TRACE and CARTE, so any of those six would be a great choice of Wordle starting word.

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

Best Wordle starting words - a mathematical approach

It's easy to see why WordleBot picks those six words once you analyze the 2,309 answers that Wordle picks from each day.

This is something that I did for myself when on worked I TechRadar's sister site, Tom's Guide. There, I delved into Wordle's code and looked for patterns among the solutions.

Among my findings were that the most common letters in the game are (in order) 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, meanwhile, are S, C, B, T and P. I also looked at the most common letters in position #2, #3, #4 and at the end of an 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 does this tell us? Well, taking the top letter in each position doesn't help much, as that would give us the word SAAEE, which isn't a real word. But once you discount made-up words you are indeed left with SLATE as your best choice.

Why? Well, you simply add up the number of times each letter appears in each position in an answer. The S gets 365, the L gets 200 and so on. By this method, SLATE has the highest overall score, of 1,432.

You don't need to be good at math to see that it makes sense, either. After all, S is the most common starting letter by far, and all of the other letters are very common throughout the game.

Personally, I prefer a word that includes an R rather than an L, because R also occurs often in -ER words. My favorite for most of the time I've played Wordle has been STARE, which WordleBot also likes well enough. 

Does it work? Well, yes - after all, my streak is currently at nearly 500!

Best Wordle starting words - the MIT verdict

I'm no mathematical genius, though, so to get a real insight into the best words to start Wordle you could see what the real experts say.

For instance, researchers at MIT have published a paper that they say definitively confirms the best Word to start Wordle as… SALET. 

If you're not sure what SALET means then you're in good company, because I didn't either. Apparently it's a 15th-century helmet, but more importantly Wordle does accept it as a guess.

SALET performs 1% better than SLATE when it comes to narrowing down the options in Wordle, the researchers say, which gives you a better chance of solving it in your six guesses. In fact, they say someone starting with SALET will solve Wordle in an average of 3.421 guesses.

That said, if you start with SALET each day you'll definitely never score a fabled 1/6, because it's not among Wordle's 2,309 answers. Likewise, CRATE, SLATE and TRACE have all been past Wordle answers, so you might want to avoid them for the same reason. Oh, and CARTE isn't an actual answer either.

With all that in mind, maybe the best Wordle starting words are SLANT and CRANE: both score a 99 from WordleBot and neither has yet been an answer. 

Best Wordle starting words - vowels

Another popular approach is to pack your Wordle start word with vowels. On the one hand this makes sense, as almost all Wordle answers contain at least one of A, E, I, O or U, and identifying them early can help point you in the right direction for what the solution might be.

AUDIO, ADIEU and CANOE are all common favorites with the vowel-heavy approach in mind, and none are terrible choices.

However, mathematically there are better options. In fact, the MIT researchers call out AUDIO specifically, stating that it uncovers only 1.320 colored tiles in the first move, whereas SALET typically reveals 1.683 of them.

Either way, please don't start with OUIJA, EQUAL or QUEUE. Yes, they all contain three or four vowels, but they all also have very uncommon letters such as Q or J in them. J is actually the least common letter in the game, featuring in just 27 answers - so that's pretty much just a waste of a letter. 

Just don't do it.

Best Wordle starting words - things to avoid

Including duplicate letters in a Wordle start word is generally a bad idea. You want to get as much information as possible from your first guess, so putting two of the same letter in your word won't be as useful as having five different letters.

Plurals should also be avoided. Yes, it is a way to get an S into a word - but Wordle doesn't feature plurals among its answers, so you'll never score a 1/6 that way. S doesn't feature very often at the end of an answer, either, so you'll most likely have to move it if it does appear.

Finally, I'd personally advise against choosing a different starting word for each day. Sure, this can shake things up and make the game fresh - but just imagine how devastated you'll be if you play CRANE one day, then switch to SLANT the next only for the answer to be… CRANE. 

Of course not everyone takes it as seriously as me, so ultimately you should do what you enjoy. Well, so long as you don't start with OUIJA. 

Marc McLaren
Global Editor in Chief

Marc is TechRadar’s Global Editor in Chief, the latest in a long line of senior editorial roles he’s held in a career that started the week that Google launched (nice of them to mark the occasion). Prior to joining TR, he was UK Editor in Chief on Tom’s Guide, where he oversaw all gaming, streaming, audio, TV, entertainment, how-to and cameras coverage. He's also a former editor of the tech website Stuff and spent five years at the music magazine NME, where his duties mainly involved spoiling other people’s fun. He’s based in London, and has tested and written about phones, tablets, wearables, streaming boxes, smart home devices, Bluetooth speakers, headphones, games, TVs, cameras and pretty much every other type of gadget you can think of. An avid photographer, Marc likes nothing better than taking pictures of very small things (bugs, his daughters) or very big things (distant galaxies). He also enjoys live music, gaming, cycling, and beating Wordle (he authors the daily Wordle today page).