Major Edit: I have changed the examples of Etienne Words to make it easier. The previous examples no longer provide any useful information. The underlying theme of Etienne Words is still the same, but the exact procedure for defining them changed slightly to make it easier.

This puzzle is based off the What is a Word™ and What is a Phrase™ series started by JLee and their spin-off What is a Number™ series.

If a word conforms to a certain rule, I call it an Etienne Word™. Use the following examples to find the rule:

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These are not the only examples of Etienne Words™, more can be found.

Hint #1

No Etienne Words can begin with the letter "Z"

Hint #2

No Etienne Words do begin with the letter "J"

Hint #3

The original name for these words was going to be “Linotype Words.”

Hint #4

if (word_val[counter] <= word_val[len(word_val)-1]): word_val.pop(counter); word_val.pop(len(word)-1)

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ must the font be kept to serve its purpose? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 4:28
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The font does not matter $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 4:30
  • $\begingroup$ In French the meaning of the name Etienne is "Crown" (if that somehow helps). $\endgroup$
    – Bella Swan
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 4:40
  • $\begingroup$ Still trying to figure out what or if it's significant, but if it helps anyone try looking at the parts of speech? $\endgroup$
    – Cubemaster
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 12:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Maybe the pattern is related to the alphabet using frequency? Due to each alphabet position arrangement on Linotype keyboard is based on it. $\endgroup$
    – Conifers
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 2:25

2 Answers 2


Etienne Words are

words where the score of each letter in the first half is less than the letter that is at the opposite end of the word. The score of a letter is given by its frequency in the English language (as expressed by its position on the Linotype keyboard), with high frequency giving a lower score.

For the word "AFTERGLOWS", which is an Etienne Word, we have A < S, F < W, T < O, E < L, R < G.

For the word "ETHICS", which isn't an Etienne Word, we have E < S, T < C, H > I.

For the hints:


"Z" has the highest score, so no opposite letter can have a higher score.


I couldn't get this one to fit. In this list of 466k words, the following both started with "J" and are Etienne Words: JASZ, JAZZ, JEAZ, JERZ, JEUX, JEUZ, JINX


The Linotype keyboard arranges letters by their frequency in the English language. This is used as the ranking system.


This is essentially just the explanation in code form.

  • $\begingroup$ If a high frequency gives letters a low score, then O < F and "AFTERGLOW" is not an Etienne Word anymore. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 7:28
  • $\begingroup$ @AlixEisenhardt Right, my bad - I intended to write "AFTERGLOWS". "AFTERGLOW" isn't an Etienne Word, as you point out. $\endgroup$
    – Birjolaxew
    Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 7:41
  • $\begingroup$ But what about "JAZZ" ? J < Z and A < Z so it would be an Etienne Word but the second hint says that no Etienne Word do begin with J $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 7:46
  • $\begingroup$ @AlixEisenhardt Hmm yeah, there seems to be some words that violate hint 2. "JAZZ" and "JINX" are the two actual words I could find. $\endgroup$
    – Birjolaxew
    Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 7:59
  • $\begingroup$ @AlixEisenhardt, the other criteria for an Etienne word is that they had to be greater than 4 letters. The French name Etienne means "crown" which is 5 letters. Therefore, the minimum word had to be five letters. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 14:08

Partial Answer.

"Etienne" words are:

Determined by the position of their letters on a Linotype keyboard like so:


"Etienne" seems to be a reference to:

The first 6 letters running downwards on a Linotype keyboard are ETAOIN. Letters to the left of this keyboard are also the most frequently used.

  • $\begingroup$ how about the word 'zen'? $\endgroup$
    – elias
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 9:16
  • $\begingroup$ @elias I'm testing my answer our and finding other anomalies too... its a WIP $\endgroup$
    – Astralbee
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 9:17
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think I fully understand this. Why is GEARBOX an Etienne word while ETHICS is not? $\endgroup$
    – hexomino
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 9:59
  • $\begingroup$ @hexomino it isn't. My answer is wrong, I thought I saw a pattern. $\endgroup$
    – Astralbee
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 12:51
  • $\begingroup$ You’re right about the reference. Now just figure out how it’s implemented! $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 17:55

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