Scripps National Spelling Bee: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


The Scripps National Spelling Bee (formerly the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee and commonly called the National Spelling Bee) is a highly competitive annual spelling bee in the United States, with participants from other countries as well. It is run on a not-for-profit basis by The E. W. Scripps Company and is held the week following Memorial Day weekend, in the ballroom at the Grand Hyatt Washington hotel in Washington, D.C. Historically, the competition has been open to, and remains open to, the winners of sponsored American regional spelling bees. Over the years, the competition has been opened to contestants from Canada, Mexico, Jamaica, New Zealand, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Ghana, Germany, South Korea, and the Bahamas. Participants from countries other than the United States must be regional spelling-bee winners as well. Since 1994, ESPN has televised the later rounds of the bee; since 2006, earlier rounds have aired on the cable channel during the day, and the Championship Finals have aired live on ABC from 8 P.M. to after 10 P.M., EDT.



The National spelling Bee was formed in 1925 as a consolidation of numerous local spelling bees, organized by The Courier-Journal in Louisville and having nine competitors. Later, the E.W. Scripps Company acquired the rights to the program. The bee is held in late May and/or early June of each year. (Noah Webster, whose spelling rules codified American English, died on May 28, 1843 - so the late May timing of the Bee is a fitting historic tribute as well as being a post-standardized testing period in the academic year.) It is open to students who have not yet completed the eighth grade, reached their 15th birthday, nor won a previous National Spelling Bee. Its goal is educational: not only to encourage children to perfect the art of spelling, but also to help enlarge their vocabularies and widen their knowledge of the English language.

An insect bee is featured prominently on the logo of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The origin of the word "bee" as used in "spelling bee" is unclear. "Bee" refers to "a gathering", where people join together in an activity[1]. While the similarity between these human social gatherings and bee social behavior is evident, recent thinking is that the origin of this sense of "bee" is related to the word "been" [2]. But the link between spelling and bees seems to reach some kind of historical exaltation in the work of under-celebrated natural history genius the Rev. Charls Butler, who combined the study of bees with early attempts to reform English spelling.

The Bee is the nation’s largest and longest-running educational promotion, administered on a not-for-profit basis by The E.W. Scripps Company and 288 sponsors in the United States, Europe, Canada, New Zealand, Guam, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa.

Sponsorship is available on a limited basis to daily and weekly newspapers serving English-speaking populations around the world. Each sponsor organizes a spelling bee program in its community with the cooperation of area school officials: public, private, parochial, charter, virtual, and home schools.

Schools enroll with the national office to ensure their students are eligible to participate and to receive the materials needed to conduct classroom and school bees. During enrollment, school bee coordinators receive their local sponsor’s program-specific information—local dates, deadlines, and participation guidelines.

The official study booklet is available free online[3].

The champion of each sponsor’s final spelling bee advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee competition in Washington, D.C.

The Spelling Bee Competition


Qualifying Regional Competitions

To qualify for the Scripps National Spelling Bee, a speller must win a regional competition. Each region may set its own rules for a spelling bee. Regional rules may not correspond exactly with the national spelling bee.

Most school and regional bees (known to Scripps as "local spelling bees") use the official study booklet. Until 1994, the study booklet was known as "Words of the Champions"; from 1994 to 2006, the study booklet was the category-based "Paideia", and in 2007 was changed to the 701-word "Spell It!". The current booklet is published by Merriam-Webster in association with the National Spelling Bee. "Spell It!" contains about 1150 words, divided primarily by language of origin, along with exercises and activities in each section. This booklet will be changed yearly. Bees preliminary to the regional level mostly use the School Pronouncer's Guide which contains a collection of Spell It! words as well as 'surprise words', words not in Spell It! but in Scripps' official dictionary, Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged.

The regional bees are given a Sponsor Bee Guide by Scripps. There are two volumes, which each contain Spell It! words as well as surprise words. Bees need not use the words from Spell It! to be considered official.


To participate in the national competition, a speller must be sponsored. Scripps has 288 sponsors (mostly newspapers) from the U.S., Canada, Bahamas, New Zealand, and Europe covering a certain area and conducting their own regional spelling bees to send spellers to the national level.

National competition format

Round One

In the few years prior to 2008, Round One consisted of a 25-word multiple-choice written test. However, as of 2008, changes have been made in the formatting of this test. Now referred to as the "Round One Test", it consists of 50 words, 25 of which are deemed "score words". The score words are the only words that will count towards a speller's overall score, and their status is undisclosed until the actual results announcement. This test will be taken electronically (on a computer) during pre-assigned time slots throughout the day on Tuesday, May 26, 2009. Spellers use headphones to listen to a recording of Dr. Jacques Bailly, the Bee's official pronouncer, pronouncing each word, its language of origin, definition, and usage in a sentence. Spellers then type their spelling of each word using the computer keyboard. They may correct their spellings as much as they wish until they complete the entire test.

Because the spellers do not take the test at the same time, they are absolutely prohibited from discussing Round One words with anyone, including their parents and official escorts. To do so would be cause for disqualification according to the rules.

Each correctly spelled "score word" on the Round One written test is worth one point.

Round Two

Round Two is an oral round, in which spellers spell a word from the Bee's official dictionary, Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, which has over 476,000 entries. Every speller participates and has a chance to take the stage. A correct oral spelling in Round Two is worth three points. In 2008, the judges totaled the scores from the Round One test and the oral round of spelling to reach the speller's score and determine the quarter finalists.

Round Three

Round Three is an oral round. Every speller spells a word from either Spell It! (the official study booklet) or from a list of extra words released only to the spellers. Like Round Two, it is worth three points. The judges total scores from the first three rounds to determine scores. The maximum possible is 31. Spellers who score 31 qualify for Round Four, followed by spellers who score 30, and so on, until there are no more than 50 spellers for Round Four.

Round Four

Beginning in Round Four, each speller participates in a single-elimination oral round, where they receive one word to spell. A speller who spells incorrectly is eliminated; otherwise, they move on to the next round.

Rounds One, Two, and all rounds from Round Four until the end of the contest are "dictionary rounds." Words in these rounds may or may not be found on old published study lists.

Remaining Rounds

Rounds continue until a champion is declared. If, at the end of a particular round, there is only one speller remaining, that speller must correctly spell one additional word to win. If they misspell the word, all spellers present at the beginning of the previous round return for another round. If there are two or three spellers remaining at the beginning of a round, the pronouncer moves to the Championship Words section of the word list. Spellers alternate spelling words from this list of 25 words until only one remains. However, if all 25 Championship Words are exhausted before a champion is declared, then all remaining spellers are declared co-champions.

Regulations of oral rounds

Before 2004, spellers were not asked to spell any word until the judges deemed that the word had been clearly pronounced and identified by the speller; only then would the judges force a speller to begin spelling. Starting in 2004, the Bee adopted new rules. A speller is given two minutes and thirty seconds from when a word is first pronounced to spell it completely. The first two minutes are "Regular Time"; the final thirty seconds are "Finish Time". During this time limit, a speller is allowed to ask the pronouncer for the word's:

  • Definition
  • Part of speech
  • Use in a sentence
  • Language(s) of origin (not the complete etymology, though some spellers call the language(s) of origin the etymology)
  • Alternate pronunciations
  • Root (The speller may ask if a word comes from a particular root word, but must specify the root's language of origin and definition.)

A chime signals that regular time has expired, and the judges inform the speller that Finish Time has begun. The speller may watch a clock counting down from thirty seconds; no timing devices are allowed onstage. The speller may make no more requests to the pronouncer, and must begin spelling the word. Any speller who exceeds the time limit is automatically eliminated. Judges do not acknowledge letters spelled after the end of Finish Time. A speller is allowed to start over spelling a word, but if they change the letters already said, it counts as a misspelling and causes automatic elimination.

Recent spelling bees

Year Competition details
2006 79th Competition
2007 80th Competition
2008 81st Competition
2009 82nd Competition

Champions and winning words


The winner of the Scripps National Spelling Bee receives a $30,000 cash prize and an engraved loving cup trophy from Scripps, a $2,500 savings bond, a reference library from Merriam-Webster, $3,800 in reference works from Encyclopædia Britannica, and a $5,000 cash prize from the Sigma Phi Epsilon Educational Foundation.

All spellers receive a commemorative watch (manufactured by TimeCal) from Scripps, Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged on CD-ROM from Merriam-Webster, the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award which is a $100 U.S. Savings Bond, and a cash prize from Scripps. These cash prizes are determined based on the round in which the speller is eliminated. They range from $100 for a speller eliminated before the Quarterfinals to $12,500 for the second place finisher.


In film


The 2002 Academy Award-nominated documentary Spellbound follows eight competitors, including eventual national winner Nupur Lala, through the 1999 competition.


The 2005 film Bee Season, based on Myla Goldberg's novel, follows a young girl's journey through various levels of spelling bee competition to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, as did the film Akeelah and the Bee the following year. Contestants in the Broadway show The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee are competing for a spot in the National Spelling Bee. The 2007 novel Spelldown by Karon Luddy is a fictional account of a South Carolina girl's journey from the Shirley County spelling championships to the Scripps National Spelling Bee.


The book American Bee, by James Maguire, profiles 5 spellers who made it to the final rounds of the competition: Samir Patel, Katharine Close, Aliya Deri, Jamie Ding, and Marshall Winchester, as well as giving an overview of the history of the bee.[4]


  1. ^ Online Etymology Dictonary
  2. ^ What is the origin of the term spelling bee?
  3. ^ Spell It!
  4. ^ Bruno, Debra (2006-05-28). "Word Nerds: Superbright youngsters who vie to make the best-speller list". Chicago Sun Times.  

External links

Related media sites


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address