What Does the “Bee” in “Spelling Bee” Mean Exactly?

spelling bee

As spellers from across the country and around the globe gather to take part in the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee, let’s try to settle a basic question: Where does the bee in “spelling bee” come from?

Bee is derived from the Old English bēn meaning “a prayer, a favor.” By the late eighteenth century, bee had become commonly associated with the British dialect form, been or bean, referring to the joining of neighbors to work on a single activity to help a neighbor in need: sewing bee, quilting bee, etc. This derivation counters a long held belief that bee refers to the buzzing insect and the social nature of a beehive. The earliest printed reference to spelling bee dates back to 1825. However, children had been engaged in competitive wordplay for years beforehand. Frank Neuhauser won the very first Scripps National Spelling Bee in 1925 by correctly spelling gladiolus. Some other former championship words include:

Do you think you’ve got what it takes? Quiz yourself with this deck of Spellbinding Championship Spelling Bee Words.


  1. morningglory17 -  November 11, 2015 - 3:16 pm

    Is it just me, or is it kind of funny that the people on a dictionary website can’t spell?

    • Ammer -  November 24, 2015 - 1:30 pm

      I know, right!

  2. rylan -  November 10, 2015 - 11:58 am


  3. Elizabeth -  October 21, 2015 - 7:16 am

    Not very helpful the way ‘spelling B is explained.

    Thanks anyway.

  4. sahlah ayyub -  October 4, 2015 - 11:25 am

    I have a better under staning for a middle schooler.

  5. sahlah ayyub -  October 4, 2015 - 11:23 am

    cool definition .I like dictionary .com it is just cool like for kids like me that’s in middle school students like me

  6. Mason Burns -  August 18, 2015 - 5:16 pm

    I almost got first place in a spelling bee! The word I misspelled was ‘access’. That’s how I thought it was spelled, so I am confused. Is that how its spelled?

    • Bridget -  October 18, 2015 - 8:38 am

      Is it possible the word was excess and not access? Did you ask for a definition?

  7. The Person Who is Typing This -  July 24, 2015 - 8:36 pm

    I love interrobangs!!

  8. james -  May 23, 2015 - 9:47 am

    the spellingbee lasted 35 ronds

  9. abe -  May 20, 2015 - 7:38 pm



  10. Eric -  May 20, 2015 - 3:24 pm

    Now why would this article hyperlink championship words that dictionary.reference.com doesn’t recognize? Should I be going to a different dictionary website?

    • R. Coon -  May 26, 2015 - 4:38 pm

      Why would you use a dictionary for a spelling test?

      • Olivia G. Pedigo -  June 1, 2015 - 1:49 pm

        Because some of the words are not on the spelling list, and so you have to study the dictionary. Who knows what words they could bring up?

    • Bridget -  October 18, 2015 - 8:41 am

      I have the same problem and was just wondering the same thing. For example, one of my words in nenuphar and it there aren’t any results. I study the definitions too, but the main reason I use dictionary.com is for pronunciations because they don’t always show up on google.

  11. Olivia G. Pedigo -  May 20, 2015 - 11:33 am

    I am speller 178 in the National spelling bee this year, and I head to Washington, DC in just four days! There are crazy words, like tchotchke, Gesamtkunstwerk, xerogel, xylary, hypsometry, and other ones that are even crazier. Three of these words were underlined in red when I typed them, so, apparently they are not in this computer’s dictionary (BTW, if you want to see my profile, just go to spellingbee.com, click on Meet The Spellers, go to the North Carolina section, and click on speller 178, Olivia G. Pedigo, and that’s me).

    • Deb Maute -  May 26, 2015 - 11:19 am

      Dear Olivia,
      Since you are the only contestant that I now know of, I will be pulling for you to win. I like that you told us about yourself and today you are on your way. The hard work that you have put in to get to this point is why you get to compete. That is what makes you a winner already. Win or lose, you are a champion already in my opinion. Be kind, be gracious and be proud but not arrogant. And have fun too!
      All the best to you,

      • Olivia G. Pedigo -  June 1, 2015 - 1:51 pm

        Thank you! I did fine, but I did not pass preliminaries. I was only five points away from passing, though.

    • Dez -  May 26, 2015 - 1:28 pm

      Good luck Olivia, speller 178

    • Eric Lee -  May 27, 2015 - 5:00 am

      Good luck Olivia! I’m pulling for you!

    • chocolate -  May 29, 2015 - 12:15 pm

      you like Narnia? awesome!!! and apparently your a Christian too? AWESOME!!!

      • Olivia G. Pedigo -  June 1, 2015 - 1:39 pm

        Yes, I am a Christian. I’m glad you’re a Christian, too. I did not make it to semifinals, but I did pretty well. God was definitely with me when I was up on stage! I was praying all the while, and he certainly answered my prayers! I tied for 50th place, but I’m gonna try to do better next year. By the way, here is a sentence that I made up involving both of the two words I spelled correctly on stage: The agnostic wrote a brouillon on the pros and cons of atheism and Christianity. Do you like it? My youth pastor challenged me to think of one, and he said it was good. He and his wife were very sweet to go to Washington, DC to support me. They were praying for me the whole time.

        • neenee -  June 3, 2015 - 9:12 am

          Very proud of you making the finals at the national level. Way cool! I watched the competition and will watch next year. Hope you do well in 2016 and make it again. I am glad you had your “support team” with you.

          You sound like a resourceful, bright, young lady. Didn’t know of link to see participant profiles. Will check that out. Here in Springfield IL we had a 6th grader from Sherman (town just north) attend. I’m sure he will go next year!

          This “old fossil” loves reading and learning new words….not sure of when the Bee started but would have loved to participate back in early 1970′s! (I’m sure you can figure out about how old I am…..!) neenee

        • Nan -  July 13, 2015 - 9:07 pm

          It has been interesting to read your interchange, Olivia. You’re a real winner to get as far as you did. When I was in school, I never progressed.
          Keep studying. Youth ministers play a really important role in lives.

      • Name not shown -  July 5, 2015 - 5:41 am

        errr u don’t have to be a christian to be awesome

  12. korbin -  May 20, 2015 - 9:19 am


    • iliketurtles -  May 20, 2015 - 12:18 pm


    • Lenny -  May 21, 2015 - 8:46 am

      ( ͡°͜ ʖ ͡°)

  13. Alicia -  May 20, 2015 - 5:10 am

    I think that the spelling bee is something that you will always remember !!!!! It is very nerve wrecking if u are in it.☺

  14. Anonymous -  May 20, 2015 - 3:57 am
    • Lenny -  May 21, 2015 - 8:47 am

      ( ͡°͜ ʖ ͡°)

      • DogLady -  May 29, 2015 - 3:44 am

        Lenny, how do you do that? ♪♪

      • #coolio -  July 3, 2015 - 3:51 pm

        how do u do that??????

  15. Greyseal -  May 19, 2015 - 10:53 pm

    I find it curious that 3 of the 7 words you reference at the end of the article as former championship words: chiaroscurist, maculature and crustaceology are not defined in your dictionary.

    • LJ -  May 21, 2015 - 7:46 am

      I agree! That’s very strange.

    • John C -  May 29, 2015 - 7:33 pm

      In that vein, I discovered a few months ago that graphene was, surprisingly, missing from this dictionary. I submitted it to Word of the Day – it wasn’t selected, but is now included. Coincidence perhaps, or WOTD sumissions act as an investigative spur to the editors.

  16. Dolfin Lover -  May 19, 2015 - 7:27 am

    Bee Happy is sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo funny

    • nona -  May 20, 2015 - 2:22 pm


  17. kaidigme -  May 18, 2015 - 4:47 pm

    My spelling bee’s words are:
    RAS syndrome

    No, it’s true! I asked my friend Joe, I asked my friend Jake, they were in the spelling bee! Seriously!

    • Yuma Chitose -  May 20, 2015 - 8:07 pm

      Your friends lied to you. That happens often.

  18. leanemohrski -  March 7, 2015 - 11:06 pm

    Ohh bee!

    • My Favorite Class is the Gaben -  May 18, 2015 - 1:27 pm

      ( ͡°͜ ʖ ͡°)

    • Bob -  May 18, 2015 - 3:57 pm

      You’re dumb

      • fish. lel. -  May 20, 2015 - 7:13 pm

        No, thats mean.

    • Bob -  May 18, 2015 - 3:58 pm

      Bees are dumb

      • Whoever -  May 20, 2015 - 2:17 pm

        Actually, it has been scientifically proven that bees are very intelligent.

  19. darkflux -  January 1, 2015 - 11:51 am

    they named it that because it’s all just a ruse to keep kids busy…busy as a bee! :D

    • Joel Miles -  January 28, 2015 - 11:55 am

      I was in the national spelling bee last year… it’s true!

      • page i -  February 25, 2015 - 1:57 pm

        Love it

      • Minecraft on Mars! -  March 23, 2015 - 2:46 pm

        *sarcastic tone* Oh really?

        • Homestar Runner -  May 18, 2015 - 4:49 pm


      • Dolfin Lover -  May 19, 2015 - 7:19 am

        I was 3rd place in district and as a first timer. :)

    • dessi -  April 1, 2015 - 11:47 am


    • Alicia -  May 20, 2015 - 4:55 am

      Yea I thought that it would mean as busy as a bee also (: !!!

  20. Julius s Fillie -  June 21, 2014 - 12:12 am

    Wow! It’s tof

    • Amdalina -  January 21, 2015 - 8:25 pm


  21. Andrew -  June 12, 2014 - 8:52 pm

    I don’t get it

    • Carol -  November 23, 2014 - 4:04 pm

      I don’t either :( Maybe check it out on Google as now I’m curious.

      • ben -  December 2, 2014 - 1:20 pm

        i love this

  22. I'm The Best -  June 8, 2014 - 6:36 pm

    I know I’m the best. I’ve got a better explanation than this crap. This is useless.


    • Strong Bad -  May 18, 2015 - 4:50 pm

      Holy crap! You say that too?

    • Lenny -  May 19, 2015 - 5:55 am

      ( ͡°͜ ʖ ͡°)

  23. Deviant Pasta & the 5 Man Salad -  May 30, 2014 - 8:13 pm

    There is no explanation of why! They take us all for fools, they do! It’s time for us common folk to Rise Up as One and get answers to this question, no matter how dirty Dictionary.com chooses to fight!

    • Teya -  June 3, 2014 - 7:52 am

      What’s the point? I thought I was missing the point. I read it twice to make sure “I got it”.

  24. Deviant Pasta & the 5 Man Salad -  May 30, 2014 - 8:09 pm

    Honey never goes bad and this article explains nothing. It acknowledges the mystery with no explanation. Dictionary.com trickery, trickery! Trickery!!

  25. wolf tamer tree climber -  April 21, 2014 - 6:14 am

    guyz i dont know how 2 spell lost evry spelling bee

    • gretchl -  April 23, 2014 - 10:03 am

      that’s ok W.T.T.C. there are different styles of intelligences

    • Andrew -  June 12, 2014 - 8:53 pm

      same here

  26. Yo Mama -  April 1, 2014 - 8:15 pm

    I know how to spell the words if I get to write them, but saying it? That’s outa the question.

    • Yo Dada -  April 1, 2014 - 8:16 pm


    • theorycraft -  April 4, 2014 - 2:34 pm

      haha, that’s probably muscle memory. To test this, try spelling the same words while writing in all caps or cursive.

    • Dolfin Lover -  May 19, 2015 - 7:21 am

      I do sign language to remember how to spell it.

    • Yo loving daughter -  May 20, 2015 - 8:08 pm


  27. praveeman -  March 26, 2014 - 5:15 am

    Im in 2014′s spelling bee! Some words are :




    tomorrow -_-


    • philis -  April 1, 2014 - 5:13 pm

      LOVE IT!! This is a great article and I will be contacting Dr.Marnish soon :) this is probably the best thing that has ever happened to me ever. It has saved my life because I dont have any friends so reading this is a real factor of my life that has made me really happy so thanks so much Dr.M ily xxx

    • philis -  April 1, 2014 - 5:14 pm

      APRIL FOOL BRA!!! ;)

    • anonymous -  April 9, 2014 - 1:38 pm

      Wow, tomorrow? Like WOW, much easy. Considering that, they should add Doge to that list.

  28. Amanda -  March 21, 2014 - 4:17 am

    dr.marnish helped me to bring back my lover now i refer many clients to call him +15036626930 him for help , i wish everyone who want his or her lover back to contact dr.marnish

    • what??? -  May 19, 2015 - 3:41 am

      Are you being serious?

  29. None of your Beeswax -  May 30, 2013 - 3:22 pm

    Yes, this article is well written.The point is why not just call it a spelling competition? You have kids say in school to their teachers.. Why is it called this way? And they make the explanation so difficult. This is why kids’s brains gets so cluttered leaving them with questions marks in their thoughts like “huh?” lol

    • philis -  April 1, 2014 - 5:18 pm

      I see what you did there with your name hahaha very tricky ;) lel

  30. Sammie Prestwood -  May 30, 2013 - 7:45 am

    Supaahhhh Interesting! :) :) :)

  31. Lucky -  May 29, 2013 - 1:03 pm

    still don’t know why it’s called a spelling bee

  32. unicorn -  May 29, 2013 - 12:54 pm

    Who can draw a cheetah?!

    • Princess Pleia -  May 18, 2015 - 6:14 pm


    • dfgjafngk,rnhilgfndgfdjggo im sorry im not stupid im just a bored 12 year old getting of of quizlet -  May 20, 2015 - 3:39 pm


  33. beebee -  May 29, 2013 - 12:52 pm

    its unicorn I changed my name into beebee

  34. unicorn -  May 29, 2013 - 12:51 pm


  35. unicorn -  May 29, 2013 - 12:51 pm


  36. jjksdad -  May 29, 2013 - 11:57 am

    you guys are sad for thinking so much of spelling bees.

  37. eric -  May 29, 2013 - 10:01 am

    oddly, the supposed difference “joining of neighbors to work on a single activity to help a neighbor in need” is not substantially different from what bees do, single minded activity to benefit the colony.

    • russell -  May 19, 2015 - 5:44 pm

      that is so !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!@@@@@@@@@@@@%%%%%%%%%%%%******************************88 cool

  38. purple master101 -  May 29, 2013 - 3:20 am

    lol this article is so funnyThe earliest printed reference to spelling bee dates back to 1825. However, children had been engaged in competitive wordplay for years beforehand. imean that is just helaarious and so are the comment made by the peple purple master101 out

  39. ZTbhe -  May 28, 2013 - 7:36 pm

    that still makes no sense but bees are cute insects so… frank who? Zhang? DOOFENSHMIRTZ? SOMETHING?

    • Geoff -  June 10, 2014 - 3:01 pm

      Ha! I see what ya did there. Zheng, Riordan reference!

  40. Brendan -  May 28, 2013 - 7:35 pm

    How I do miss thw days of the spelling bee. It was like a linguistic log roll, trying to stay on and stay up. Question though; does your ad and photo for this article actually involve a bee? It sure looks like a wasp. ~B

  41. BERNADETTE/BENNIE -  May 28, 2013 - 3:42 pm

    Love good spelling…was a reasonable speller. Was a teacher of English but thought it was more important that children use the word even if the spelling wasn’t up to scratch.

  42. maximum ride -  May 28, 2013 - 1:29 pm

    Apparently I was the first 6th grader to win in 18 years. It wasn’t very hard to do, so it doesn’t strike me as a big accomplishment. I’m not in the National Spelling Bee this year, though. Next year, I will spell paradigm or superlative or ostentatious or whatever it was right. I will.

  43. maximum ride -  May 28, 2013 - 1:26 pm

    I won the Spelling Bee at my school, and memory is not just what helps you win. I pored over dictionaries, spelling lists, commonly misspelled words, et cetera. I made packets of words derived from foreign languages, and quizzed myself. I have to say, though, that the spelling bee at my school was not challenging in the least. And I’m only in 6th grade! I’m 11!

  44. JackaBee -  May 28, 2013 - 9:50 am

    I know this is off the topic of the spelling bee, but I believe that the picture on the Dictionary.com Homepage of the “bee” on the flower that contained the link to this article is a picture of a wasp not a bee. It certainly isn’t a honey bee. The picture at the beginning of this article showing the “Bee” on the dictionary, does appear to be a honey bee. Glad to see that they got that right. Be kind to the bees. We need them much more than they need us!

  45. buzz -  May 28, 2013 - 9:26 am


  46. Luke -  May 28, 2013 - 8:19 am

    I am really enamoured as well by the kids on the Geography bee.

  47. limina -  May 28, 2013 - 7:07 am

    the word bee as used in spelling bee is one of those language puzzles tht has never been satisfactorilyt acconted fof

  48. Just wondering -  May 28, 2013 - 5:40 am

    Looks like there are a lot of people who will use any excuse to provoke a fight

  49. Silly1 -  May 28, 2013 - 4:10 am

    “To bee or not to bee”. Isn’t that the question?

  50. charlie -  May 27, 2013 - 5:31 pm

    I luv spelling beeez!!!

  51. Papa Ken -  May 27, 2013 - 3:45 pm

    “Hukt Awn Fonicks” wurkt fer mee!

  52. saleem -  May 27, 2013 - 1:33 pm

    bee! sweet to pronounce just as it give us sweet honey… lol

  53. e257 -  May 27, 2013 - 11:49 am

    For goodness sake, kids, your whining reflects poorly on other atheists (and I am one). Please convince yourself in private.

  54. unicorn -  May 27, 2013 - 10:52 am

    I saw a wasp hive right near my door in my backyard.I have to be careful when I get out into the backyard

  55. Elli -  May 27, 2013 - 8:11 am

    BTW, I like spelling bees and jeopardy but, i
    never played Chess. And, I’d like to learn how.

  56. Elli -  May 27, 2013 - 8:02 am

    Hey! Why are you guys writing 9 paragragh essays about spelling bees? Take a chill pill!

  57. Naza -  May 27, 2013 - 3:56 am

    Wow……………I’m impressed. I never thought that the word “bee” had such a deep meaning to it.

  58. Abdul Vahid -  May 27, 2013 - 3:44 am

    The right way to understand the language :-)

  59. C.Kid -  May 27, 2013 - 2:59 am

    :lol: Interesting…

  60. Alex Pan -  May 26, 2013 - 3:56 pm

    I thougth in means people do the spelling and gather around like bees

  61. lindsay boo -  May 26, 2013 - 1:52 pm

    i won my school spelling bee in 4th grade it was fun to go to the regionals but i got the word castanets wrong i spelled it like this: castinettes: boohoo but yay;0:)

  62. Sage Amberly -  May 26, 2013 - 4:12 am

    I wish people who post here, even in “text lingo” (ROFL, LOL, etc.), would at least spell correctly. I mean, this is a dictionary, for goodness’ sake!

  63. Rose Wilder -  May 26, 2013 - 4:10 am

    Jay! Ole Ed! Archon! Stop arguing please. Ole Ed, please try to act Christ-like. Jay, please don’t provoke everyone else. Archon, you’re only making things worse. You’re being just as “emotionalistic” as Ole Ed. Now, everyone on this site, please listen up:


    By the way, Archon, what do you mean about the “buttons clearly marked and easy to access, just waiting to be pushed”? God, the Rock, stands firm, and those who trust in Him cannot be swayed . . .

    If anyone actually read this, THANK YOU! :-D

  64. Yankiemog -  May 26, 2013 - 2:39 am

    When I was a little kid I misbeehived by beating the hell off a behave All the bees came out after me. I ran to Mother and they gave her a rare seeing too for having such a brat of a kid.

  65. Kate Sanderson -  May 26, 2013 - 1:26 am

    Um, excuse me, Archon? Maybe you should take another look at the facts. You’ll find they fit better into our “narrow religious worldview” than they do yours.
    P.S. Not to start a religious war here, but just had to say it . . .

  66. SPELLING-BEE | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  May 25, 2013 - 8:38 am

    [...] the color of envious poop — The Buzz-buzz-buzzing for an environmental ‘Spelling-Bee’.  –>>L.T.Rhyme This entry was posted in DICTCOMHOTWORD, L.T.Rhyme and tagged LT, [...]

  67. Archon -  June 8, 2011 - 5:33 pm

    @ Ole Ed,

    Jay’s quiet observation that hard-line Christians often react swiftly and strenuously to even the merest hint that they could be wrong, is hardly hate-filled slop. Your over-the-top, emotionalistic rant, however, gave him exactly what he wanted. Not only a satisfying Broadway-quality performance, but proof and justification for his claim. “WE won’t change?” Of course not, you’re as predictable as sunrise, all the buttons clearly marked and easy to access, just waiting to be pushed. You’ve had your minds made up for you and you’re not going to be swayed by facts which don’t fit into your narrow religious world-view.

  68. cdmsr -  June 7, 2011 - 1:41 am

    @Great White Troll (and to Amit):

    You wrote, “Spelling bees are nothing more than a memory game for children. They portray no true measurement of intelligence.”

    Memory is a fundamental element of intelligence. If you can’t remember something, you don’t know it. That is the difference between rote versus actual learning. Most people can recite the alphabet but very few could tell you the 12th or 19th or 8th, etc., letter of the alphabet without running through their rote ABC’s while maintaining a mental tally.

    The skills demonstrated by these exceptional kids are developed and honed through study and practice. They study etymology, the rules of pronunciation and spelling and, yes, mnemonics. But when they step forward on that stage, there is a lot more going on in their brains than the functions of memory.

    @Ole Ed:

    Dear Kettle,

    You are black.



    Regarding Jay’s expression of appreciation for the absence of “SkyMan write Magic Book” trolls mucking up a decent comment thread — as they are undeniably wont to do — I unreservedly second his comment. Your response — “antireligious slime,” as though any rejection of religion should be automatically subject to the harshest condemnation — is both typical and indicative of the level of discourse religionists generally contribute.

    Jay’s statement is an exception. The rule is, in my experience, that well over 90% of the time it is the religionists (always xtians) who inject the subject into an unrelated thread. Jay went preemptive and must have known the response. Maybe he did and was just being deliberately provocative. Regardless, I would be happy to ‘slime’ you in much less polite terms. Like the late, great Greg Giraldo’s observation that you have an entire religion based on one girl really sticking to her story. Or, based on your own canon, you have a religion based on the rape of a somnambulant teenaged virgin female by a predatory deity. (I guess the priests were unclear on the gender.)

    Religion is just another superstition conceived by ignorant protohumans to comfort themselves, to explain natural phenomena beyond their ken. If it hadn’t been seized upon and exploited by despots to control their subjects it might have faded away long ago.

    I say ‘might’ because, after all, people embrace a myriad versions of magical thinking. Take Nancy Reagan. Please. But, seriously,as the wife of MoRonald Reagan, one of a long line of mentally and morally challenged Republican presidents, she was big on astrology and would have moRon’s itenerary and agenda vetted by her astrologer. I don’t know if John Hinckley believes in astrology.

  69. Archon -  June 6, 2011 - 2:50 pm

    After reading yesterday’s column about confabulation, where people continue to talk and make claims without being sure of the facts, it was interesting (and somewhat depressing) to tie it to Jays post about expecting religious fundies to claim something about this article wasn’t true. It’s obvious you don’t have to be religious to insist, even in the face of demonstrable proof to the contrary, that what you believe is true.

    The spelling bee wasn’t “in” Washington DC, even the producers tell us that. It was actually held in a small town in Maryland which is part of the conurbation which includes Washington. A hunk of Maryland surrounds two sides of Washington, but Washington isn’t in Maryland. That’s why we say Washington DC, not Washington, MD. Despite two inattentive posters’ claims that they were there, they didn’t notice that, while they had been in Washington, by the time they got to the Bee, they were in Maryland.

    Nobody likes to admit that they are wrong, but the time spent insisting that you “were there” could be better spent using a map and shaving a little off that know-it-all attitude.

  70. hasan -  June 6, 2011 - 9:50 am

    Eighth grader Sukanya Roy became the 2011 Scripps Spelling Bee Champion Thursday, taking home the trophy and more than $40,000 in prizes. The Associated Press reports the Abington Township, Penn., 14-year-old is the fourth Indian-American in a row to win the spelling bee. “Cymotrichous” was the word that won her the competition, meaning something that relates to wavy hair.

  71. Marcos -  June 6, 2011 - 6:13 am

    Ezekiel, …and for someone who wrote “No offence” after criticizing what another intended as a joke, he better checks his own spelling as well.

  72. Archon -  June 6, 2011 - 1:05 am

    @ Anonymous

    Read my earlier explanation to David, or Kevin’s post just above. You “went to Washington.” You didn’t “land in Washington” because the airport is across the river in Virginia, and when you got to the spelling bee at the convention center, you were outside the boundary of Washington and almost 2 miles into Maryland. I know it all looks the same, but there are border lines. You were in Washington, just not when you attended the bee.

  73. Asian. -  June 6, 2011 - 12:08 am

    English originated from too many languages. You either need exceptional memory or a knowledge of pronunciations and their spelling of many languages. By the way, I’m going to die when I compete in this year’s state competition since I’m sure I’ll be smothered. It might not take extreme amounts of wisdom, but it takes learning capacity. Many have read the dictionary, though what you really need is a good understanding of how words are formed.

    Come on. I know this may not be the best place to troll, but even I troll sometimes. It’s not poking fun at anybody but the ones reading their comments because it’s a joke and a statement to provoke reactions out of people for fun. I even enjoy reading some. Anybody who trolls on Dictionary.com, I would assume, would be quite an amateur at such an art. Yes, yes, it’s an art, though hard to make pretty for the general crowd. It’s why I’d say the ones here are amateurs at best.

  74. Ernie -  June 5, 2011 - 8:07 pm

    No wonder students of English spell so horribly, they are just too many ways to write the same thing.

    • Dolfin Lover -  May 19, 2015 - 7:25 am

      TO TRUE

  75. Kevin -  June 5, 2011 - 6:09 pm

    @David and Haha> You pitifully inept geography losers. @Haha, Washington DC is it’s own entity, without a seat in Congress, hence the longstanding license plates “taxation without representation”. @David, the Spelling Bee was at Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, which is near DC, but located in Maryland…like the Fedex field (Washington Redskins stadium)

  76. Michalis -  June 5, 2011 - 11:28 am

    I think I could win some. Most of the words are of Greek origin and I am Greek… :o)

  77. Don -  June 5, 2011 - 7:33 am

    I like spelling bees..great entertainment

  78. anonymous -  June 5, 2011 - 1:06 am

    Are you kidding!? That spelling bee was in Washington, I was there!

  79. Luck in W -  June 4, 2011 - 9:31 pm


    Competitors in spelling bees are allowed to ask for the meaning of a word. For those who have never seen even a part of one–I’ve never watched a complete bee myself–there are more and more loan words from any number of foreign languages, at present mostly European but not exclusively so. If you’ve ever tried to spell Italian words, e.g., you’ll have a hard time unless you learned that language at some time.

    As for having a good memory not being a sign of intelligence–that’s quite true. However, it can certainly help you to correlate somewhat obscure facts to come up with possible answers for problems. So that ability to correlate facts is definitely more important. But if you aren’t aware of or can’t remember facts that might help solve problems, you are less able to put your intelligence to work.

  80. hello =) -  June 4, 2011 - 6:09 pm

    hey… nice to finally know where the bee in spelling bee came from.. = )

  81. hello =) -  June 4, 2011 - 6:08 pm

    hey.. nice 2 no where the bee in spelling bee came from… = )

  82. Alex -  June 4, 2011 - 6:05 pm

    I greatly enjoyed this article. I have always loved all things intellectual, and this is no exception! I don’t know a single person who doesn’t wonder where “bee” came from.

    As for all of you who are misspelling intentionally, it really shows how much you really care about the amazing achievements of these kids. How is it funny to poke fun at the fact that they seem to know more than you?

    • Dolfin Lover -  May 19, 2015 - 7:26 am

      It makes NO sense I agree with Alex

      • abe -  May 20, 2015 - 7:47 pm


  83. ashi -  June 4, 2011 - 4:33 pm

    i think “supercilious” is a really pretty word :)

  84. Susan -  June 4, 2011 - 12:17 pm

    I didnt get it o.O :/

  85. Miles -  June 4, 2011 - 9:50 am

    We’ve got kids spelling words like “Chiaroscurist”, “Smaragdine”, and “Maculature”.

    I’d be happy if some grownups could just correctly spell “lose” with one “o”!

  86. Marvin -  June 4, 2011 - 9:24 am

    vat is et wit al da playa haterz not being able too halfve a sense of humor
    cmon ets caled a joke guyz

  87. Rusty -  June 4, 2011 - 8:48 am

    I had a dreem lass nigt that I one tha anule spieling be won yeer.

  88. Builder -  June 4, 2011 - 8:31 am

    Great explanation… thanks. This whole subject has been a lifelong fascination for me, and your contribution sheds even more light into the dim areas. English is undergoing constant modification, and the rise of digital communication has accelerated change significantly. It would be interesting to see how grammar and spelling have changed over the next several generations.

  89. Ole Ed -  June 4, 2011 - 7:09 am

    To “Jay”
    Is it your turn to start trouble by bringing in the anti-religious slime? You atheists can’t wait for a chance to infiltrate a chat to bring up your hate filled slop. Give it up….WE won’t change.

    • Geoff -  June 10, 2014 - 3:07 pm

      We don’t want u to change. I am an aetheist a almost all of my friends are religious, so please don’t call our logic based opinion “slime”

      • Geoff -  June 10, 2014 - 3:14 pm

        We don’t want u to change. I am an aetheist a almost all of my friends are religious, so please don’t call our logic based opinion “slime”

        OK, after reading jay’s, I understand your point on this.

  90. Edify -  June 4, 2011 - 4:26 am

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm.That is interesting.

  91. Willie Webster -  June 4, 2011 - 4:24 am

    Who uses these words anyway? It’s time to take words OUT of dictionaries.

  92. DeeJay -  June 4, 2011 - 3:21 am

    I wuz in 1 and i came 4th!

  93. Halle -  June 3, 2011 - 10:00 pm

    Spelling bees are the best I’ve won 3!

  94. Eliwrites -  June 3, 2011 - 8:16 pm

    I have to say that, as someone that used to compete in spelling bees when I was in school, this article was very interesting. For those that think a spelling bee is simple memorization, I would have to disagree. There are millions of words in the American English language. A person could NEVER memorize all of the words they use for the national spelling bee.

    When I was studying, I had to learn the Greek and Latin root words so I might be able to determine the spelling based on pronunciation and meaning. I also learned the more common French, German, and Spanish word roots that are used in American English. I am firmly of the belief that living in Germany for three years as a child helped tremendously with this.

    Another big thing with spelling bees, especially when you get to the Regional level and above, is being able to concentrate with a large number of people watching. I am always impressed with the composure of the kids that compete. At my Regional competition, I blew it on the word conjunctivitis when a family member walked into the auditorium.

  95. Haha -  June 3, 2011 - 6:50 pm

    @David E.
    Washington D.C. is in Maryland!!

    • Palaniappan Rajaram -  November 22, 2014 - 7:09 am

      Are you serious or being sarcastic? If you think DC is in Maryland, you should ask for your money back from your school. While DC was carved out of Maryland and Virginia, it is a completely separate federal enclave.

  96. Arcanis -  June 3, 2011 - 5:46 pm

    Woot to all who love this article

  97. Arcanis -  June 3, 2011 - 5:45 pm

    @ Ezekiel Rage

    you spelled “offense” wrong, that should’ve showed up in the spelling error

  98. Arcanis -  June 3, 2011 - 5:42 pm

    i know this has nothing to do with the previous comments or conversations, but

    BEES ARE AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  99. Fools... -  June 3, 2011 - 5:04 pm

    I love that people are using “text language” on Dictionary. Freeking. Dot. Com.
    “I luv Spelin Beez!
    I alwaiz bee happie wenz me seez 1!! ‹(ô_ô)›”
    Some of that is even bad spelling in a text!
    “ROLF! I luve de speeling bee to! It make me ove the board to wathes, but its happier to reed ove eet after in teh newspapeh! LOLOL!”
    You spelt ROFL wrong you troglodyte.

  100. Archon -  June 3, 2011 - 4:42 pm

    @ David E.

    Washington D.C. butts up against Maryland, among other political entities. Oxon Hill, MD. is just outside the imaginary line which encloses it, so close that you could throw a rock from one into the other. No-one has ever heard of Oxon Hill, so TV promoters do what they always do, they lie their face off and tell us that the contest is in “Washington DC”, to get our attention. This shit goes on all the time. I just ordered two books from Motor City Books, which is actually in Riverview, MI, a good 30 miles downriver from Detroit.

  101. Archipelago -  June 3, 2011 - 4:26 pm

    At Preston: Wow…musta taken lots of imagination–seriously, no sarcasm :D It seems like a quite a bit more than a mixture of a spelling bee, chess, and jeopardy…

  102. I'm an evil potato. -  June 3, 2011 - 4:23 pm

    I forgot to watch the Spelling Bee, but I wanted to.

    And by the way, I’ve been in schoolwide and countywide spelling bees and don’t find them “a memory game for children” that portrays no measurement of intelligence. It isn’t an end-all measurement of who’s smart, but there is really no way of knowing which words you get, therefore there is no way to memorize all the words, so it is not a simple memorization game.

  103. Jessica -  June 3, 2011 - 4:05 pm

    @preston, sign me up

  104. Jessica -  June 3, 2011 - 4:02 pm

    @ Preston. LOL, i want to participate. Is there a age ristriction cause im 13. It sounds a bit like the hunger games doesn;t it? I would lov to do and watch that. The winner would be super human. Hey what would happen if one dies????

  105. Linda -  June 3, 2011 - 2:13 pm

    @Preston.. spelling bee, jeopardy & chess; I liked it! I thought “the Intellec’ts triathalon” —However you lost me me at stripped of your clothes. Dude these are kids!

  106. charliey -  June 3, 2011 - 2:05 pm

    well,i used to bee in them speeling bees,but i could never do words like tht o.O

  107. Mie Knutz -  June 3, 2011 - 1:13 pm

    @ Preston
    Sounds fun. I wanna participate~

  108. jamie -  June 3, 2011 - 12:41 pm



  109. Smitty -  June 3, 2011 - 12:40 pm

    Thanks for helping me bee informed.

  110. Kat -  June 3, 2011 - 12:27 pm

    I came in third for the math bowl!!! don’t care much for language arts though.

  111. Steve -  June 3, 2011 - 12:13 pm

    A couple of ESPN commentators had a little fun directly after the close of the Spelling Bee which was carried in the U.S. on the sports channel, ESPN.

    In their version of the bee, the contestant could correct their misspelling. The joke was that every subsequent attempt to spell the word resulted in a more inventive spelling that was even further away from the correct spelling.

    How can someone teach a system where most words have a dozen plausible spellings? The answer is you can’t. You can teach the high frequency spelling patterns for each phoneme. This might insure that the reader and the spellchecker could make sense of your spelling. Beyond that, you just have to memorize the dictionary. Spelling Bee champions also learn the rational spellings of every written language that loans words to English.

    No other alphabetical writing system can match English on the number of variants that one can concoct for each spoken word. Most other European writing systems spell most words the way they are spoken.

    This was not always the case. Most of these writing systems have been updated more than once to keep the spelling in sync with the spoken language.

    The problem with English spelling is that there are hundreds of spelling patterns for the 39-44 English phonemes. G. Dewey (1971) found over 400 in his abridged dictionary. In larger dictionaries there are over 1000. When every phoneme has over 14 plausible representations, a word with 5 phonemes such as /’sIz@rz/ winds up with over 10,000 plausible spellings.

    The dictionary has offers only one possible phonemic spelling of this word. A notation that was isomorphic with the dictionary might spell the word “sizerz”. The most plausible spelling in our traditional writing system is probably “sissers”. Unfortunately this is not the correct spelling.

    The early English lexicographer, Johnson, decided that the spelling that most of the best writers of his day used was “scissors”, so that became the sole correct spelling and the other variant spellings you find in 17the century correspondence would now be incorrect.

    It was not until after 1800 that the concept of one correct spelling per spoken word became accepted in America.

  112. JAFO -  June 3, 2011 - 12:11 pm

    “Spelling bees are nothing more than a memory game for children. They portray no true measurement of intelligence.”

    Great White Troll,

    This is actually NOT true as the contestants do have at least some modicum of intelligence. These kids don’t just memorize how to spell words, they learn the roots and the origins of words to help them to spell anything.

    Haven’t you ever seen “Akeelah and the Bee?”

  113. astraeos -  June 3, 2011 - 10:43 am

    @cap’n buck
    thats not even trolling, no one knows what trolling is. everyone thinks its something like when you miss spell something on purpose or you correct someone on something they miss wrote. every kid who thinks they can troll should just never come on the internet. including people who talk like “i luv teh l0l catzzz!!!!” needs to grow up and leave to.

  114. David E. -  June 3, 2011 - 10:31 am

    Earlier this week, 275 spellers from across the country and around the globe gathered in Oxon Hill, Maryland to take part in the 84th Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee.

    Where do you get your information from? The Bee was in Washington, D.C., not Maryland!

  115. Great White Troll -  June 3, 2011 - 10:28 am

    Spelling bees are nothing more than a memory game for children. They portray no true measurement of intelligence.

    rEdIn tWeN dA liNeZ hOwEbAr dOz

    Props go out to all of the clever folks who actually understood the poor spelling posts here, you’re above average. To those who did not (or still don’t), cease breeding operations.

  116. The Great White Troll -  June 3, 2011 - 10:25 am

    Spelling bees are nothing more than a memory game for children. They portray no true measurement of intelligence.

    rEdIn tWeN dA liNeZ hOwEbAr dOz

    Props go out to all of the clever folks who actually understood the poor spelling posts here, you’re above average. To those who did not (or still don’t), cease breeding operations.

    • wolf gamer and tree muncher -  May 29, 2014 - 2:46 pm

      i am much smarter than everyone in my 6th grade class even though i am 32 and i am a great speller so how do you explain that?? i think you are just an internet troll sir, don’t you have something better to do?

    • neenee -  June 3, 2015 - 9:37 am

      “Reading ‘tween the lines however does!”

      Thanks for stimulating my synapses this morning! Love a good challenge…


      I think I was illiterate in one of my past lives, this was too easy…..sigh

  117. Lola -  June 3, 2011 - 10:05 am

    My goodness @ Smoothius, Vandelay & Ezekial.

    Were is youre since of humor? LOL

    Laughter is the key to longevity…
    Happy Friday :-)

  118. smoothius -  June 3, 2011 - 8:23 am

    wow, real nice postings for a spelling bee article:(

  119. da Martian -  June 3, 2011 - 8:16 am

    sum pipl jus cant spot a jok evn if it punched ‘em in da face xD

  120. Julie -  June 3, 2011 - 7:57 am

    Ezekiel…Jacob was just having fun…wie elz wuld hie hav mis-speled ;oD

  121. Cap'n Buck -  June 3, 2011 - 7:41 am

    @ Ezekiel Rage:
    Trolling is a art.

  122. Jay -  June 3, 2011 - 7:39 am

    Where are all the religious nuts trying to tie God or something into this? Kind of miss the silly rhetoric. I’ve seen some good byplays and discussions be absolutely degraded into “If you don’t believe the way I do, you’re going to hell” idiocy.

    As far as the words and bees, wow, it’s amazing what these kids can do. More power to them…

  123. Dandy -  June 3, 2011 - 7:38 am

    @Ezekiel Rage
    I’m sure that comment was a joke =P
    and so are the other “lol i luve de spellin be 2!” comments

  124. Preston -  June 3, 2011 - 7:30 am

    In the second half of the game you will have to face off against General Zaroff, Sun Tzu, Ulysses S. Grant, king Leonidas, and Odysseus. This challenge will take part in a huge land filled with a variety of environments. Although don’t get too comfortable, because what is that lurking in the shadows? It’s none other than a Sith assassin tracking you down getting ever closer to his prey. Although you could try to fare the rough waters of the Aridian sea, however you may be eaten by Charybdis…it is a trade off but if you and your crew are successful they can move to round three.

  125. Preston -  June 3, 2011 - 7:14 am

    Hmm, I don’t think I could win one. Although if they want a real challenge I say they mix spelling bees with jeopardy and chess. The spelling part would pit contestants against Stephen King. The Jeopardy round would pit contestants against the human sphinx otherwise known as Stephen Hawking. The last Chess round would make contestants play against the super computer Watson, if time runs out or you lose the match you are stripped of your clothes. If it’s a tie the runner ups will face off in a gladiatorial battle, using a variety of weapons. As the competitors struggle to win they will have team up to go against a unit of Elite U.S. Navy SEALS in a cooperative battle of both physical and mental prowess. This round will be dubbed “the gauntlet of tactical brutality” in which case the remaining contestants left over from the gladiatorial rounds team up against the SEALS to hold out as long as they can in ever changing terrain, along with the side objective of finding the crystal skull. Although they will have to seek shelter at night from the roaming packs ninjas and decepticons that rain projectiles from the sky. Oh yeah and Bear Grills will also be unleashing a herd of voracious werewolves on your trail if you try to escape through the forest path. However if you are well versed in the art of politics you may be able to gain two additional skill points and thus recruit either master chief or Optimus Prime as an additional teammate. Keep in mind that each one has their benefits and disadvantages, although either one will be able to help you fend off the barbaric mountain tribes that will attack from the east. All of this for one gold leaf trophy. Anyone think this would be fun to participate in?

  126. vandelay97.blogspot.com -  June 3, 2011 - 7:04 am

    It’s a shame you would never be able to compete.

  127. RICKEDY RICK -  June 3, 2011 - 6:50 am

    ROLF! I luve de speeling bee to! It make me ove the board to wathes, but its happier to reed ove eet after in teh newspapeh! LOLOL!

  128. Beez Waxx! -  June 3, 2011 - 6:29 am

    Me luv Da Spellin Beezz
    Tis da shizznetzz!
    4 Shizzle!!

  129. Spelling Bee Buzz -  June 3, 2011 - 6:09 am

    I actually went and watched Sukanya Roy, and I must say, she was absolutely stunning! Good for her!

  130. Jo -  June 3, 2011 - 6:03 am

    This was very interesting!

  131. Martha -  June 3, 2011 - 4:48 am

    WOW! I can’t even pronounce these words. To think I probably could’ve done it. WOW!

  132. Amit -  June 3, 2011 - 4:38 am

    Do champion wordsmiths also know the meaning of the words they spell correctly? Eg, could Sukanya Roy tell me the meaning of cymotrichous? Or is it always that the meaning is given as a clue to the right spelling?

  133. Ezekiel Rage -  June 3, 2011 - 3:22 am

    @Bee Happy! :
    Begging your pardon, but for someone who says that they “luv spelin beez,” your spelling leaves quite a lot to be desired. No offence.

    • Carter -  June 9, 2014 - 5:58 pm

      For someone who spends any time on the internet, you seem rather ignorant of the concept of intentional irony. You also correct such “mistakes” while also committing errors of your own. In case you are unaware, “they” is plural, and therefore should not refer to one person, as in “…someone who says that they….”

  134. jacob -  June 3, 2011 - 3:13 am

    i too vely much luv duh beez

  135. Richard Comaish -  June 3, 2011 - 2:24 am

    Charles Butler (1560–1647) was an early English naturalist who also wrote and published in his own simplified spelling system. An overlooked genius – arguably the Isaac Newton of modern biology – he wrote a classic and influential study of bees – ‘The Feminine Monarchie’ (1609) in his simplified spelling system. A teacher and grammarian, it remains open to speculation whether he was aware of the ‘spelling bee’ coincidence, or in fact influenced inception of the concept.

  136. Jean -  June 3, 2011 - 1:54 am

    I watched this ! so cool.
    btw,this article is informative and was written well. :D

  137. Bee Happy! -  June 2, 2011 - 11:19 pm

    I luv Spelin Beez!
    I alwaiz bee happie wenz me seez 1!! ‹(ô_ô)›


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