On June 2, 2022, Harini Logan, a 14-year-old eighth-grader from San Antonio, Texas, won the 94th Scripps National Spelling Bee by correctly spelling the word “moorhen”(defined by Merriam-Webster as “the female of the red grouse.” Because there was a tie, the spelling organizers introduced a timed spell-off: whoever could spell the most words correctly in 90 seconds would win. Logan spelled 21 words correctly (moorhen was the last word before the timer went off) versus her opponent, Vikram Raju (12), who spelled 15 words. This was Logan’s fourth time competing in the spelling bee. For her spelling brilliance, Logan won a $50,000 in cash prize, the Scripps Cup trophy, and — of course — bragging rights to being the best speller in America — not to mention the ability to ignore annoying spellcheckers on her smartphone apps. Each year, the spelling bee begins with more than 11 million students (the cut-off is 8th grade) in local and regional spelling bees; however, only 229 contestants, ranging in age from 9 to 15 years old, reached the national level this year. Incidentally, the second place winner receives $30,000; the third-place winner receives $15,000.
A review of the words used in the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee shows that the judges don’t mess around when it comes to finding truly difficult and obscure words, venturing into the world of art, antiquity, medicine, zoology, and botany taken from the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary. In fact, most of them fall into the category of “I didn’t even know that there was a word for that!” A review of the winning words form the inaugural Spelling Bee in 1925 to now shows a steady evolution from simple words, like “albumen” or “fracas,” to amazingly difficult words like “feuilleton” and “scherenschnitte.” So why have the words become so difficult? Since ESPN started broadcasting the Spelling Bee in 1994, the competition has attracted more competitors, and more significantly, ones who possess truly remarkable spelling skills. As you can see from the list below, most of these words are ridiculously arcane. In order to spell a word correctly, contestants can ask clues about the word, such as what part of speech it is, language of origin, and alternate pronunciation.
Here is a list of some of the more difficult words of the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee, including their definitions:
bebung: a tremolo effect similar to a violin vibrato and produced on a clavichord by sustaining a varying pressure on the key
bourgade: a village of scattered dwellings, an unfortified town
chatoyance: the state of being chatoyant (having a changeable luster or color with an undulating narrow band of white light)
de riguerur: required by fashion or etiquette
escharotic: producing an eschar (a scab formed especially after a burn)
impayable: priceless, invaluable
ineradicable: unable to be removed or destroyed
Micawber: a person who lives in optimistic expectation of better fortune (coined by Charles Dickens in his novel David Copperfield)
noctivagant: going about in the night; night-wandering
obstropolous: a dialectical variant of obstreperous (being unruly or resistant to control)
Pachytylus: a genus of Acrididae that includes several destructive Old World migratory locusts
palapala: writing (Hawaiian word)
phenocoll: a crystalline base used in the form of a salt (as the hydrochloride) as an antipyretic and analgesic
Powys: a Welsh geographic name
pullulation: to germinate or sprout; to breed; to swarm
Senijextee: a Salishan people of the Columbian River Valley in Washington and British Columbia
sirtaki: a Greek circle dance similar to a hora
suffrutescent: a plant with a base that is somewhat woody and does not die down each year
tektite: a glassy body of probably meteoritic origin and of rounded but indefinite shape
wirrah: an Australian spotted food fish
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For further reading: http://www.merriam-webster.com