Curiosity

The 25 Toughest Winning Words Ever Spelled In The National Spelling Bee

We hope this list has a "eudaemonic" effect on you!

The Scripps National Spelling Bee has been a treasured competition for kids for nearly a century. The Bee got its start when nine newspapers joined together to host a spelling bee, and today the international competition involves 11 million students each year.

The Spelling Bee starts each year at students’ schools and culminates with the nationally televised finals (which you can catch this year on Thursday, May 30 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN).

Simplemost and the Spelling Bee share a parent company (the E.W. Scripps Company), so we asked our colleagues on the Bee staff for a list of the hardest winning words from Spelling Bee history.

Check out the list below.

Cerise

Year: 1926

Pronunciation: suh-REES

Origin: This word is from an originally French word.

Part of speech: noun

Definition: a moderate red color.

Sentence containing the word: Clara didn’t want her dress to clash with the cerise of her shawl.

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Albumen

Year: 1928

Pronunciation: al-BYOO-mun

Origin: This word is from Latin.

Part of speech: noun

Definition: the white of an egg.

Sentence containing the word: Tawny learned to crack an egg with one hand and use the shell to separate the yolk from the albumen.

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Foulard

Year: 1931

Pronunciation: foo-LARD

Origin: This word is from French.

Part of speech: noun

Definition: a lightweight plain-woven or twilled silk usually printed with a small neat evenly spaced pattern.

Sentence containing the word: Henrietta instructed her seamstress that she wanted her new dress to be made from foulard.

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Semaphore

Year: 1946

Pronunciation: SEM-uh-fohr

Origin: This word is made up of Greek-derived elements and may have been formed first in French.

Part of speech: noun

Definition: a system of visual signaling (as between ships) in which the sender holds a flag in each hand and moves his arms to different positions according to a code alphabet.

Sentence containing the word: Mr. Jackson taught the Eagle Scouts semaphore on the camp-out by having them climb hills and then signaling them the day’s dinner menu.

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Insouciant

Year: 1951

Pronunciation: in-SOO-see-unt

Origin: This word is from a French word.

Part of speech: adjective

Definition: exhibiting or characterized by freedom from concern or care.

Sentence containing the word: The pompous, insouciant aristocrat never had to work a day in his life.

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Soubrette

Year: 1953

Pronunciation: soo-BRET

Origin: This word is from a word that went from Latin to French.

Part of speech: noun

Definition: a lady’s maid in comedies who acts the part of a coquettish maidservant or frivolous young woman.

Sentence containing the word: Although the leading lady did an admirable job, the soubrette stole the show and had the audience in tears from laughing.

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Schappe

Year: 1957

Pronunciation: SHAHP-uh

Origin: This word is from a German dialect of an originally Swiss word.

Part of speech: noun

Definition: a yarn or fabric of spun silk.

Sentence containing the word: Leonard asked the salesman if they had any schappe in stock that would be suitable for the baby blanket he was making.

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Eudaemonic

Year: 1960

Pronunciation: yoo-dee-MAHN-ik

Origin: This word is from Greek.

Part of speech: adjective

Definition: producing happiness : based on the idea of happiness as the proper end of conduct.

Sentence containing the word: The company’s decision to eliminate production quotas had a eudaemonic effect on all the workers.

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Smaragdine

Year: 1961

Pronunciation: smuh-RAG-din

Origin: This word is from Latin.

Part of speech: adjective

Definition: of or relating to emerald : yellowish green in color like an emerald.

Sentence containing the word: Legend has it that Alexander the Great found a smaragdine tablet containing 13 sentences considered to be basic principles in Greek alchemy.

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Esquamulose

Year: 1962

Pronunciation: eh-SKWAH-myuh-lohs

Origin: The first part of this word is from a Latin word, and the second part is an English combining form.

Part of speech: adjective

Definition: not covered with or consisting of minute scales.

Sentence containing the word: Once she was brave enough to pet the frog, Georgette was surprised to notice that its skin was esquamulose.

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Milieu

Year: 1985

Pronunciation: meel-YOO

Origin: This word went from Latin to French.

Part of speech: noun

Definition: the physical or social setting in which something occurs or develops : environment, setting.

Sentence containing the word: The loud rock concert was not Matilda’s normal milieu.

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Staphylococci

Year: 1987

Pronunciation: staf-uh-loh-KAHK-sahy

Origin: The first part of this word went from Greek to Latin to French, and the second part is originally Greek.

Part of speech: plural noun

Definition: a genus of nonmotile spherical eubacteria that occur singly, in pairs or tetrads and comprise a few parasites of skin and mucous membranes.

Sentence containing the word: There are more than 30 types of staphylococci but most infections are caused by a single type.

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Antediluvian

Year: 1994

Pronunciation: an-tee-dih-LOO-vee-un

Origin: This word is formed from two Latin elements plus an English combining form.

Part of speech: adjective

Definition: of or relating to the period before the Flood described in the Bible.

Sentence containing the word: Quentin has spent much time combing the Internet for articles written about antediluvian civilizations.

Museum Of Natural History Holds Media Preview Of New 122-Foot Dinosaur Exhibit
Getty Images | Spencer Platt

Xanthosis

Year: 1995

Pronunciation: zan-THOH-sis

Origin: This word is from Greek.

Part of speech: noun

Definition: a yellow discoloration of the skin from abnormal causes.

Sentence containing the word: Xanthosis can by caused by the accumulation of cholestorol within the skin cells.

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Euonym

Year: 1997

Pronunciation: YOO-uh-nim

Origin: This word is from Greek.

Part of speech: noun

Definition: a name well suited to the person, place or thing named.

Sentence containing the word: “Rock City” is a euonym for one of Tennessee’s tourist attractions.

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Chiaroscurist

Year: 1998

Pronunciation: kyahr-uh-SKYUR-ist

Origin: This word came from Italian, which formed it from a Latin word.

Part of speech: noun

Definition: an artist who uses the arrangement or treatment of the light and dark parts in a pictorial work of art.

Sentence containing the word: The chiaroscurist deftly conveyed the mood in black and white.

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Succedaneum

Year: 2001

Pronunciation: suk-suh-DAY-nee-um

Origin: This word is from Latin.

Part of speech: noun

Definition: one that comes next after or replaces another in an office, position or role.

Sentence containing the word: If the president and the vice-president of the United States die while in office, the Speaker of the House of Representatives is their succedaneum.

nancy pelosi photo
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Autochthonous

Year: 2004

Pronunciation: ah-TAHK-thuh-nus

Origin: This word is from Greek.

Part of speech: adjective

Definition: indigenous, native, aboriginal—used especially of floras and faunas.

Sentence containing the word: The planting of fruit trees and autochthonous forest trees is an ongoing activity of the Center for Rainforest Protection.

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Appoggiatura

Year: 2005

Pronunciation: uh-pahj-uh-TUR-uh

Origin: This word came from Italian, which formed it from a Latin word.

Part of speech: noun

Definition: an accessory embellishing note or tone preceding an essential melodic note or tone and usually written as a note of smaller size.

Sentence containing the word: An appoggiatura is meant to be a kind of buttress or leaning support to the note before which it is placed.

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Ursprache

Year: 2006

Pronunciation: UR-shprah-kuh

Origin: This word is from an originally German word.

Part of speech: noun

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

Sentence containing the word: The comparative study of Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit indicates a common Ursprache.

 

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Laodicean

Year: 2009

Pronunciation: lay-ah-duh-SEE-un

Origin: This word consists of a Greek geographical name that went into Latin plus an English combining form.

Part of speech: adjective

Definition: lukewarm or indifferent in religion or politics.

Sentence containing the word: Emma is somewhat Laodicean and rarely votes, even in national elections.

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Cymotrichous

Year: 2011

Pronunciation: sahy-MAH-truh-kus

Origin: This word consists of a part that went from Greek to French and a Greek part.
adjective

Definition: having the hair wavy.

Sentence containing the word: Jonathan proudly wore his cymotrichous toupee on dates.

Alternate sentence: There is considerable debate among musicologists about whether there is a causal relationship between Bon Jovi’s most awesome tunes and the band’s cymotrichous era.

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Feuilleton

Year: 2014

Pronunciation: fur-yuh-TOHN

Origin: This word is from French.

Part of speech: noun

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

Sentence containing the word: Gigi occasionally writes freelance pieces for the feuilleton of a Paris newspaper.

Alternate sentence: It was in the feuilleton of the Paris newspaper that Cheree learned she was not the only one who dressed her dog in her other dog’s hand-me-downs.

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Scherenschnitte

Year: 2015

Pronunciation: SHAYR-un-shnit-uh

Origin: This word is from German.

Part of speech: noun

Definition: the art of cutting paper into decorative designs.

Sentence containing the word: On Saturday afternoons, Amy would ride her bike across town to learn scherenschnitte from her grandmother.

Alternate sentence: It took Sarah much longer to learn how to spell scherenschnitte than to learn the first steps involved in the art of paper-cutting.

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Gesellschaft

Year: 2016

Pronunciation: guh-ZEL-shahft

Origin: This word is from German.

Part of speech: noun

Definition: a rationally developed mechanistic type of social relationship characterized by impersonally contracted associations between persons.

Sentence containing the word: Todd held forth on his pet theory that Facebook was merely a popular gesellschaft.

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The Winning Word From 2018

Watch 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee champion, Karthik Nemmani, correctly spell the winning word in last year’s competition.