Every Winning Word From the Scripps National Spelling Bee Since 1980
What does it take to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee? The ability to sound out words you’ve never heard before in your life, tons of practice and a little luck. It’s tough, and to make it even tougher, none of the participants can be older than 14 or past eighth grade.
This year, the winner was 14-year-old Zaila Avand-garde (pictured). In addition to winning an incredibly difficult competition, she made history: She was the first Black American to win the bee in the competition’s history. Way to go, Zaila!
Most of us probably can’t spell one-tenth of the words Zaila did, but maybe you’re up for the challenge? Check out how many of these winning words you know from the last 41 years of championships.
Definition: To solve, write or compose by working studiously at night; to study.
Winner: Jacques Bailly
Definition: A stone coffin, often inscribed or decorated with sculpture.
Winner: Paige Pipkin
Definition: A noncontagious disease whose main symptom is gray or silvery flaky patches on the skin that are red and inflamed underneath when scratched.
Winner: Molly Dieveney
Definition: A Jewish festival, celebrated on the 14th day of Adar, commemorating the deliverance of the Persian Jews from a massacre.
Winner: Blake Giddens
Definition: A racing sled for one or two people that is ridden with the rider or riders lying on their back.
Winner: Daniel Greenblatt
Definition: A particular medium. It can also mean a social setting or environment.
Winner: Balu Natarajan
Definition: A toothache.
Winner: Jon Pennington
Definition: Plural of staphylococcus, a spherical gram-positive parasitic bacterium of the genus Staphylococcus, causing blisters, septicemia and other infections
Winner: Stephanie Petit
Definition: Elegiac; expressing sorrow.
Winner: Rageshree Ramachandran
Definition: One who spoilates, or pillages.
Winner: Scott Isaacs
Definition: A rayon fabric similar in texture to linen.
Winner: Amy Marie Dimak
Definition: A medicine that reduces fevers.
Winner: Joanne Lagatta
Definition: A public lecture hall or a school, particularly a school in Europe between elementary school and university.
Winner: Amanda Goad
Definition: An attack requiring the suicide of the one carrying it out, often carried out via aircraft.
Winner: Geoff Hooper
Definition: Ancient or extremely dated.
Winner: Ned G. Andrews
Definition: A yellowish discoloration of tissues undergoing degeneration.
Winner: Justin Tyler Carroll
Definition: The practice of burying someone alive.
Winner: Wendy Guey
Definition: A name well suited to the person, place or thing that bears it.
Winner: Rebecca Sealfon
Definition: A painter who uses light and shade rather than color to create the illusion of volume. Refers to the artistic technique chiaroscuro.
Winner: Jody-Anne Maxwell
Definition: Excessive chattiness.
Winner: Nupur Lala
Definition: A line of action or maneuver, particularly one in government or diplomatic relations.
Winner: George Thampy
Definition: A substitute, particularly in medicine.
Winner: Sean Conley
Winner: Pratyush Buddiga
Definition: Indifferent or apathetic.
Winner: Sai Gunturi
Definition: Indigenous. Found where it originates. Often used in biology and medicine.
Winner: David Tidmarsh
Definition: A musical ornament that consists of an added non-chord note in a melody that is resolved to the regular note of the chord.
Winner: Anurag Kashyap
Definition: A proto-language that is reconstructed by examining similarities in existing languages to piece together their roots.
Winner: Kerry Close
Definition: Small forceps used for clamping an artery.
Winner: Evan O'Dorney
Definition: A reward, prize or recompense for a service; an accolade.
Winner: Sameer Mishra
Definition: Lukewarm. Also used to mean half-hearted or apathetic.
Winner: Kavya Shivashankar
Definition: A medical instrument designed in 1867 by Carl Ludwig to measure the strength of flow in major arteries and veins.
Winner: Anamika Veeramani
Definition: Having wavy hair.
Winner: Sukanya Roy
Definition: An ambush or trap.
Winner: Snigdha Nandipati
Definition: A type of traditional Jewish dumpling served during Passover.
Winner: Arvind Mahankali
2014: Stichomythia (Tie)
Definition: A technique in verse drama in which sequences of single alternating lines or half-lines (hemistichomythia) or two-line speeches (distichomythia) are given to alternating characters.
Winner: Sriram J. Hathwar
* In 2014, the competition ended in co-champions because the two winners exhausted the list of words in the final round. This was the first time it ended this way since 1962; however, this became somewhat typical in more recent years, as you'll see down the list.
2014: Feuilleton (Tie)
Definition: Originally, a kind of supplement attached to the political portion of French newspapers. It later came to be used by English newspapers to describe an installment of a serial story.
Winner: Ansun Sujoe
2015: Scherenschnitte (Tie)
Definition: The art of paper cutting.
Winner: Vanya Shivashankar
2015: Nunatak (Tie)
Definition: The summit or ridge of a mountain that protrudes from an ice field. Nunataks are also known as glacial islands.
Winner: Gokul Venkatachalam
2016: Feldenkrais (Tie)
Definition: A type of alternative exercise therapy that proponents claim can repair impaired connections between the motor cortex and the body, improving overall well-being and mobility.
Winner: Jairam Hathwar
2016: Gesellschaft (Tie)
Definition: A hypothetical type of society made up of self-serving individuals linked by impersonal ties.
Winner: Nihar Saireddy Janga
Definition: A heavy crepe fabric used for apparel, made of either silk, wool or both.
Winner: Ananya Vinay
Definition: Fellowship and unity. A term tied to the Christian church.
Winner: Karthik Nemmani
2019: Auslaut (Tie)
Definition: The last sound of a word or syllable.
Winner: Rishik Gandhasri
2019: Erysipelas (Tie)
Definition: A fairly common bacterial infection of the top layers of the skin.
Winner: Erin Howard
2019: Bougainvillea (Tie)
Definition: A genus of thorny vines with bright, three-petalled flowers.
Winner: Saketh Sundar
2019: Aiguillette (Tie)
Definition: A cord with metal tips or lace tags. A decorative cord. May also refer to the metal tip itself.
Winner: Shruthika Padhy
2019: Pendeloque (Tie)
Definition: A drop-shaped gem used as a pendant, particularly a diamond.
Winner: Sohum Sukhatankar
2019: Palama (Tie)
Definition: The webbing on the feet of aquatic birds.
Winner: Abhijay Kodali
2019: Cernuous (Tie)
Definition: Pendulous, drooping downward. Usually used to describe flowers, fruit or vegetation.
Winner: Christopher Serrao
2019: Odylic (Tie)
Definition: Pertaining to the alleged natural force of od, a supposed natural power said to produce mesmerism.
Winner: Rohan Raja
Definition: A genus of flowering plants in the citrus family, Rutaceae.
Winner: Zaila Avant-garde