10 years of winning words at the national spelling bee

Posted May 29, 2016

The Scripps National Spelling Bee wraps up on ESPN today. In 2013 and 2014, the contest ended in a tie, leading to a number of rule changes for 2016 to make the contest harder.

"As difficult as those words offered those co-champions were, we had a more difficult section in our word list, but we couldn't go to them because our rules bound us to stick to that 25-word championship word section," Paige Kimble, the bee's executive director, told The Associated Press.

To make up for the difficulty, the prizes have also jumped, with first place $40,000, up from $30,000. Second place will get $30,000 and third gets $20,000.

The definitions and word origins below are from the Merriam Webster Unabridged online dictionary. Most of them are available only to subscribers. Webster's Third New International Dictionary is the final authority at the spelling bee.

Here are the winning words and definitions from the past 10 years.


Winning Word: Ursprache

noun \ˈu̇(ə)rˌshpräḵə\

a parent language; especially : one reconstructed from the evidence of later languages

Origin: German, from ur- primitive, original (from Old High German ur-, ur out of) + sprache language, from Old High German sprāhha speech — more at abear, speech

Winner: Kerry Close, Asbury Park, New Jersey


Winning Word: serrefine

noun \ˈserəˌfēn, (ˈ)ser¦f-\

1: a small forceps for clamping a blood vessel

Origin: French serre-fine, literally, fine clamp, from serre grip, clamp + fine, feminine of fin fine, from Old French — more at sear (catch of a gunlock), fine

Winner: Evan M. O'Dorney, Walnut Creek, California


Winning Word: guerdon

noun \ˈgərdən\

1: something that one has earned or gained : reward, recompense, requital

Origin: Middle English, from Middle French guerdon, guerredon, from Old French, modification (influenced by Latin donum gift) of Old High German widarlōn, from widar again, against + lōn reward

Winner: Sameer Mishra, Lafayette, Indiana


Winning Word: Laodicean

adjective \(¦)lā-¦ä-də-¦sē-ən, ¦lā-ō-\

1: of or relating to ancient Laodicea, a city of Asia Minor and site of an early Christian church

2: lukewarm or indifferent in religion or politics

Origin: Laodicea, ancient city is Asia Minor (from Latin, from Greek Laodikeia) + English -an

Winner: Kavya Shivashankar, Olathe, Kansas


Winning Word: stromuhr

noun \ˈstrōˌmu̇(ə)r\

1: a rheometer designed to measure the amount and speed of blood flow through an artery

Origin: German, literally, stream clock, from strom stream (from Old High German strōm) + uhr hour, clock, from Middle High German ur hour, from Middle Low German or Middle Dutch ure, from Old French — more at stream, hour

Winner: Anamika Veeramani, Cleveland, Ohio


Winning Word: cymotrichous

adjective \(ˈ)sī¦mä‧trə̇kəs\

1: having the hair wavy < a cymotrichous race>

— cy·mot·ri·chy \-kē\ noun, plural -es

Origin: cym- + -trichous

Winner: Sukanya Roy, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania


Winning Word: guetapens

noun \¦getə¦päⁿ\

1: ambush, snare, trap < a trick to lure him into some guetapens — Rafael Sabatini>

Origin: French guet-apens, from Middle French, from de guet apens with premeditation, alteration of de guet apensé

Winner: Snigdha Nandipati, San Diego, California


Winning Word: knaidel

noun \kəˈnādəl, ˈknā-\

plural knai·dlach \-dləḵ\

1: matzo ball

Origin: Yiddish kneydel, from Middle High German knödel

Winner: Arvind Mahankali, New York, New York


Winning Word 1: feuilleton,

noun \ˌfəryəˈtōⁿ, ˌfə̄yə-, ˌfœyə-, F fœytōⁿ\

1: a part of a European newspaper or magazine devoted to material designed to entertain the general reader : a feature section

2: a writing printed in a feuilleton (as an installment of a serialized novel)

3a : a novel printed in installments : serial

3b : a work of fiction catering to popular taste

4: a short literary composition often having a familiar tone and reminiscent content: sketch < these feuilletons are self-analytical studies and personal confessions, memories, scenes of animal life, symbolic stories dealing with personal and national problems — Izidor Cankar>

Winner: Ansun Sujoe, Fort Worth, Texas

Winning Word 2: stichomythia

noun \ˌstikəˈmithēə\ also sti·chom·y·thy \stə̇ˈkäməthē\

plural stichomythias also stichomythies

1: dialogue especially of altercation or dispute delivered in alternating lines (as in classical Greek drama)

Origin: Greek stichomythia, from stichomythein to speak dialogue in alternate lines, from stichos row, line, verse + mythos tale, speech, myth — more at myth

Winner: Sriram Hathwar, Corning, New York


Word 1: scherenschnitte

noun \ˈshārənˌshnitə\

1: the art of cutting paper into decorative designs

Origin: German, plural of scherenschnitt, literally, scissors cut, from scheren, plural of schere scissors (from Middle High German schære, plural, from Old High German skār) + schnitt cut, from Middle High German snit, from Old High German; akin to Old English snid cut, from the Germanic root of snīthan to cut.

Winner: Vanya Shivashankar, Olathe, Kansas

Word 2: nunatak

noun \ˈnənəˌtak\

1: a hill or mountain completely surrounded by glacial ice


Winner: Gokul Venkatachalam



Please with your account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all