That's a Word? Look Back at Some of the Winning Terms from the Scripps National Spelling Bee
Get out your dictionaries
Um, may I hear that in a sentence?
Every year, the Scripps National Spelling Bee crowns a new whiz-kid winner and introduces the country to a word they’ve likely never heard of — let alone know how to spell.
Here’s a look back at some of the most recent winning words.
“Auslaut,” “Odylic,” “Bougainvillea,” “Erysipelas,” “Aiguillette,” “Pendeloque,” “Palama,” and “Cernuous”
An eight-way tie! Thursday’s final round — which lasted for over three hours — ended with eight kids taking home a championship trophy, after the competition ran out of challenging words to stump the brainiacs following 20 rounds.
“We’re throwing the dictionary at you. And so far, you are showing this dictionary who is boss,” Jacques Bailly, the event’s pronouncer, told the eight champions.
The winners: Rishik Gandhasri, 13, of San Jose, California; Erin Howard, 14, of Huntsville, Alabama; Saketh Sundar, 13, of Clarksville, Maryland; Shruthika Padhy, 13, of Cherry Hill, New Jersey; Sohum Sukhatankar, 13, of Dallas, Texas; Abhijay Kodali, 12, of Flower Mound, Texas; Christopher Serrao, 12, of Whitehouse Station, New Jersey; and Rohan Raja, 13, of Irving, Texas. According to the New York Times, all eight winners will take home the full traditional $50,000 prize.
Here are the words that helped them win:
1. Auslaut, “the final sound in a word or syllable,” according to Merriam-Webster
2. Odylic, “of or relating to odyl,” which means “a force or natural power formerly held by some to reside in certain individuals and things and to underlie hypnotism and magnetism and some other phenomena”
3. Bougainvillea, “any of a genus of the four-o’clock family of ornamental tropical American woody vines and shrubs with brilliant purple or red floral bracts”
4. Erysipelas, “an acute febrile disease associated with intense edematous local inflammation of the skin and subcutaneous tissues caused by a hemolytic streptococcus”
5. Aiguillette, “a shoulder cord worn by designated military aides”
6. Pendeloque, “a diamond or other gemstone cut in the form of a pear-shaped brilliant with a table”
7. Palama, “the webbing on the feet of aquatic birds”
8. Cernuous, “of a plant: inclining or nodding”
The 2019 bee also set the record for most contestants, at 565 total, an increase of last year’s record 515 participants.
Last year, 14-year-old Karthik Nemmani of McKinney, Texas, became the latest champion after correctly spelling the word koinonia, which according to a press release means an ”intimate spiritual communion and participative sharing in a common religious commitment and spiritual community.”
Nemmani was one of 515 spellers to participate in 2018’s bee, winning multiple prizes including $40,000 in cash, a reference library from Merriam-Webster and a Pizza Hut pizza party for his entire school.
2017’s spelling bee champion was 12-year-old Ananya Vinay, who took the crown after successfully spelling marocain, which is a type of dress fabric or ribbed crepe.
“I knew them all,” Ananya told the Associated Press of the words given to her over the 21 championship rounds. “It’s like a dream come true. I’m so happy right now.”
The Fresno, California, student’s win also marked the first time since 2013 that the national spelling bee didn’t end in a tie.
“Gesellschaft” and “Feldenkrais”
11-year-old Nihar Saireddy Janga and 13-year-old Jairam Hathwar tied for the spelling bee crown in 2016, after spelling two spectacularly difficult words: gesellschaft and feldenkrais.
According to Merriam-Webster, gesellschaft means “a rationally developed mechanistic type of social relationship characterized by impersonally contracted associations between persons,” while feldenkrais is a method of movement “intended to increase bodily awareness and ease tension.”
“I’m just speechless,” Janga, who is the youngest champ on record, said after winning. “I can’t say anything. I’m only in fifth grade.”
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“Nunatak” and “Scherenschnitte”
In 2015, there was another tie between Gokul Venkatachalam, 14, of Chesterfield, Missouri, and Vanya Shivashankar, 13, of Olathe, Kansas.
While Shivashankar correctly spelled scherenschnitte, a German word for the art of paper cutting design, Venkatachalam nailed nunatak, an Inuit word for a kind of glacial island.
They each took home a trophy and $35,000 in cash.
“Feuilleton” and “Stichomythia”
For the first time since 1962, the Scripps National Spelling Bee ended in a tie in 2014 with Sriram Hathwar of Painted Post, New York, and Ansun Sujoe of Fort Worth, Texas, sharing the title.
While Hathwar won by spelling feuilleton, which Miriam-Webster describes as “a part of a European newspaper or magazine devoted to material designed to entertain the general reader,” Sujoe nailed stichomythia, which refers to “dialogue especially of altercation or dispute delivered by two actors in alternating lines.”
“The competition was against the dictionary, not against each other,” Hathwar said after both were showered with confetti onstage. “I’m happy to share this trophy with him.”
Although they shared a single trophy onstage, each boy got to take home the full haul of more than $33,000 in cash and prizes.