Could You Win the National Spelling Bee?

Test yourself with 17 of contestants' toughest winning words from 1926 to the present.

By Meera Jagannathan
  • Loading
    Alex Wong/Getty Images

    Consider yourself a killer speller?

    Since 1926, the Scripps National Spelling Bee has been challenging tens of thousands of schoolchildren each year to learn their words in competition to be known as the best speller in the land. How well would you hold up? We've pulled what we thought were the trickiest winning words; either ask a friend to read them (pronunciation links included), or, flip through and see how many you would have guessed correctly.

    knaidel (n.)

    Means: Matzo ball; hear pronunciation

    Winner: Arvind Mahankali, 2013

    stromuhr (n.)

    Means: Device used to measure amount and speed of blood flow through an artery; hear pronunciation

    Winner: Anamika Veeramani, 2010

    Laodicean (adj.)

    Means: Indifferent in religion or politics; hear pronunciation

    Winner: Kavya Shivashankar, 2009

    serrefine (n.)

    Means: Small forceps for clamping a blood vessel; hear pronunciation

    Winner: Evan O'Dorney, 2007

    appoggiatura (n.)

    Means: Embellishing note or tone that precedes an essential melodic note or tone; hear pronunciation

    Winner: Anurag Kashyap, 2005

    autochthonous (adj.)

    Means: Indigenous, native; hear pronunciation

    Winner: David Tidmarsh, 2004

    demarche (n.)

    Means: A course of action; hear pronunciation

    Winner: George Abraham Thampy, 2000

    chiaroscurist (n.)

    Means: An artist who specializes in chiaroscuro (contrasting effects of light and shade); hear pronunciation

    Winner: Jody-Anne Maxwell, 1998

    antediluvian (adj.)

    Means: Primitive, old fashioned; hear pronunciation

    Winner: Ned G. Andrews, 1994

    fibranne (n.)

    Means: Fabric made of spun-rayon yarn; hear pronunciation

    Winner: Amy Marie Dimak, 1990

    odontalgia (n.)

    Means: Toothache; hear pronunciation

    Winner: Jon Pennington, 1986

    deification (n.)

    Means: The act of treating someone or something like a god; hear pronunciation

    Winner: Peg McCarthy, 1978

    equipage (n.)

    Means: Material used in equipment, or a horse-drawn carriage; hear pronunciation

    Winner: Glen Van Slyke III, 1963

    soubrette (n.)

    Means: A frivolous young woman in comedies; hear pronunciation

    Winner: Elizabeth Hess, 1953

    semaphore (n.)

    Means: A system of visual signaling using two handheld flags; hear pronunciation

    Winner: John McKinney, 1946

    foulard (n.)

    Means: A lightweight silk, usually decorated with a printed pattern; hear pronunciation

    Winner: Ward Randall, 1931

    cerise (n.)

    Means: A moderate red; hear pronunciation

    Winner: Pauline Bell, 1926


    Become more interesting every week!

    Get our Read Up newsletter

    Sending Message
    how we use your e-mail