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These Words Won the Last National Spelling Bees

Spelling Bee winning kids are bonkers impressive. Check out these 10 obscure, winning spelling bee words of the last 6 years. (The competition ended up in a ties in 2014, 2015, and 2016.)

Spelling Bee winning kids are bonkers impressive. Check out these 10 obscure, winning spelling bee words of the last few years. The competition ended up in a ties in 2014, 2015, and 2016. Here are 16 spelling rules you should have memorized.

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“Erysipelas” is a bacterial infection—2019

For the first time at the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee, eight spellers have become co-champions and shared the title. The other winning words include “auslaut,” “palama,” “aiguillette,” “odylic,” “bougainvillea,” “pendeloque,” and “cernuous.”

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“Koinonia” isn’t a fancy word for a koi pond—2018

Koinonia means Christina fellowship or a body of believers. Here’s how you use it in a sentence: “Those who are in koinonia are in fellowship with Christ.” These are the toughest winning words from the National Spelling Bee ever.

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Everything looks better in “Marocain”—2017

Marocain is a little bit like Moroccan—that’s because it’s derived from the French word for it. But we’re talking fashion. You’ve probably read this word in Vogue or in your class on obscure names for fabric. Here’s how you use it in a sentence: “The First Lady entered the lounge wearing a stunning ribbed crepe dress made of marocain.”

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Congrats on having something named after you Mr. “Feldenkrais!”—2016

Feldenkrais is basically just exercise. It’s a trademark named after the guy who invented this system of movements that ease tension and raise body awareness. Feldenkrais had a bum knee so he drew on the martial arts to create his methods. Here’s how you use it: “Grab your yoga mat and settle in for some relaxing feldenkrais movement.” See if you can pass this 4th-grade spelling quiz. It’s pretty hard.

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“Gesellschaft” is pronounced “gazelle shaft”—2016

So this word is definitely of German origin and it refers to your society and the people you hang with socially as a duty or just based on being part of the same group. As in: “Entering the school for the year’s first PTA meeting, Giselle realized she was part of a gesellschaft, a group of parents connected by duty, neighborhood, and a bunch of kids the same age.” Here’s when to use an apostrophe—and when you shouldn’t.

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“Nunatak” has nothing to do with nuns—2015

Nunatak derives from the Inuit word for mountain peak. However, a nunatak is not your average mountain peak. It’s a peak not covered with ice and snow, but it’s surrounded by ice and snow—also known as a “glacial island.” Here’s how it’s used: “Zack nearly had a heart attack when he realized he lacked an anorak on the nunatak.” (Anorak means parka!) These are the 40 words you may think are antonyms but actually aren’t.

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John Jacob Jingleheimer “Scherenschnitte”—2015

Scherenschnitte means “scissor cuts” in German. But these are special scissor cuts. Think artwork and décor and elaborate snowflakes cut into paper. Here’s an example: “Mitzy unfolded her valentine, which was a decorative heart banner cut into paper, and realized J.J. was a great artist of scherenschnitte.” Find these words a bit hard to pronounce? Here’s why reading aloud is good for your brain.

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What’s the internet version of “Feuilleton?”—2014

Feuilleton is a lot like the comics page or the Arts and Leisure section. It’s the section of French newspapers where they put the reviews and novel serials—usually down toward the bottom, because, hey, that stuff’s, you know, less important. It derives from the French word for sheet of paper and leaf. Use it this way: “Ratatouille scanned the feuilleton with gusto looking for the review of his new restaurant.” These 15 “modern” words are much older than you thought.

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“Stichomythia” is not contagious—2014

Stichomythia has nothing to with medical diagnoses and everything to do with Greek plays. It’s basically an early form of witty repartee. In this early dramatic style, actors alternate single lines of verse during intense scenes. As in: “We need a lot more stichomythia in modern sitcoms, don’t you think?” Here are 15 slang words you didn’t know are in the dictionary.

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Yes, you pronounce the “k” in Knaidel—2013

Knaidels are a type of yummy dumpling that are usually served in soup. You can fill them with matzo meal, eggs, or things like ground almonds or grated potatoes. Use this line at your next party: “Hey, who’s got a great knaidel recipe?” Don’t forget to pronounce the ‘k’! You won’t believe that these hilarious typos actually got printed.

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“Guetapens” spells danger!—2012

See you if you can guess the meaning of “guetapens” from context: “Wily Coyote always falls victim to the Roadrunner’s guetapens.” This French word means an ambush or trap. Watch out!

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People want your hair: “Cymotrichous”—2011

Cymotrichous is a Greek word that means “having the hair wavy,” and though people with this lush style of hair are known to complain, face it—you look really good. Use it this way: “Kim’s hair stylist gave her locks a look that was perfectly cymotrichous.” Next, check out these words and phrases you’re probably getting wrong.