Since 1925, the National Spelling Bee has captured the attention of grammar enthusiasts young and old alike. This year’s winner, 14-year-old Harini Logan, of San Antonio, Texas, correctly spelled the word “moorhen,” earning herself more than $50,000 in prize money and a visit to the White House. Logan competed in an unprecedented spell-off where she had to spend 90 seconds spelling as many words correctly as possible against her tied opponent.
Much has changed in the 97 years since 11-year-old Frank Neuhauser of Kentucky won the inaugural Spelling Bee, spelling “gladiolus” and earning $500 in gold as well as a trip to the White House. Another changing aspect of the contest that has also evolved over the years is the difficulty of the winning words themselves.
In 2021, the winning word was “murraya,” which according to Merriam-Webster is “a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees.” There was no Spelling Bee in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but in 2019 another unprecedented scenario occurred; an eight-way tie. Auslaut, erysipelas, bougainvillea, aiguillette, pendeloque, palama, cernuous, and odylic were the winning words, but new rules were established to prevent history from repeating itself. Other winning words for the last decade include 2018: koinonia, 2017: marocain, 2016: feldenkrais, gesellschaft, 2015: scherenschnitte and nunatak, 2014: feuilleton and stichomythia, 2013: knaidel, and 2012: guetapens.
Want to test your spelling skills? Try playing the New York Times Spelling Bee.