What is Wordle? And why is everyone suddenly so obsessed with the word guessing game?

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Lauren Geall
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Wondering what’s going on with all the grey, green and yellow squares on your Twitter feed? Welcome to the wonderful world of Wordle.

If you’ve been online at all over the last month, chances are you’ve heard of Wordle – the simplistic word guessing game which has taken over the internet.

Thanks in part to its signature grey, green and yellow squares, the game has well and truly cemented itself as a part of 2022’s pop culture, and its popularity shows no signs of slowing. 

But where did Wordle actually come from? Who invented it? And what is it that makes the game so addictive and fun to play?Let’s take a closer look at the story behind this strangely addictive puzzle. 

What is Wordle?

Wordle is an online word guessing game that can be played on the Wordle website. The premise of the game is unbelievably simple: all you have to do is guess the ‘Wordle’ of the day (a random five-letter word) in under six guesses.

There are no clues – to get started, you simply input the first five-letter word that comes into your head and press ‘enter’. The letters will then flip over to reveal whether any of the letters you’ve guessed are right – those which turn grey aren’t present in the word at all, those which are yellow are present in the word but not in the spot you’ve put it in, and those which are green are correct and in the right spot.  

You can then use this information to narrow down your guesses, with the aim of revealing the Wordle in the fewest possible guesses.

Because there’s only one Wordle available everyday (and everyone plays the same word on the same day), you have to wait until midnight before another one becomes available.

The game’s creator has said he has about 2,500 words in the queue ready for players to guess, so the game could go on for years. 

Where did Wordle come from?

Wordle is the creation of Reddit engineer Josh Wardle, whose previous creations include viral Reddit experiments such as The Button and Place.

However, Wordle wasn’t part of his work as an engineer – in fact, he never intended to release it to the public in the first place. Instead, Wardle invented the game for his partner, who loves word games, and named it Wordle as a play on his last name.  

It was only after Wardle and his partner had played the game for several months, and he’d introduced it to several of his friends and family who loved it too, that Wardle decided to release the game to the rest of the world in October last year.

Since then, the game has continued to grow in popularity – with over 300,000 people playing on Sunday 2 January, according to The New York Times.

Why is everyone so obsessed with Wordle?

According to Mark Whiteway, head of content at Puzzler Magazine, Wordle’s popularity is down to a number of key factors.

“Being based on common 5-letter words, the puzzle is accessible to all speakers of the English language after a brief scan of the simple instructions,” he explains.

“It doesn’t rely on expansive general knowledge or expert puzzling skills, but has that essential magic ingredient of all good puzzles – a fair challenge. The level is pitched to perfection. No matter how savvy your guesses, the answer won’t always come easily, and that’s what gives players that quick fix of elation from solving it. 

“The buzz is addictive and, with just one puzzle a day, it’s guilt-free fun.” 

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The social aspect of Wordle also adds to the game’s appeal. You only need to look through some of the tweets under the #Wordle hashtag to get a sense of the impact the game has had – alongside the expected results tweets, people are sharing screenshots from Wordle competitions in their family group chats and coming up with creative ways to display their daily habit, from cross stitches to finding pictures ‘inspired’ by their result pattern

There’s even a Twitter account called @wordleinpaint which transforms Wordle results into digital drawings using the Microsoft app Paint.

In short, Wordle is simple, fun, doesn’t take up too much of your time and gives people an excuse to bond with friends and family. What’s not to love? 

How to get good at Wordle

Want to get better at guessing the Wordle of the day? We asked Whiteway to share his top Wordle-solving tips – here’s what he had to say:

1. Try using a word with three vowels for your first guess – remembering that Y may be used as a vowel

2. Take time over your guesses to ensure you’re not duplicating information you already know

3. UK players – keep an eye out for US spellings, eg COLOR

Put these tips to the test by playing Wordle on the Wordle website

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and women’s issues. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time. You can find her on Twitter at @laurenjanegeall.