15 little-known Scripps Spelling Bee facts

Posted at 10:05 AM, Apr 04, 2016

The Scripps National Spelling Bee has a rich history longer than the lists of crazy complicated words the students spell on stage each year.

Here are 15 fun facts about the Scripps National Spelling Bee — slated for May 22-27, 2016 in Maryland —that are probably easier to remember than how to spell scherenschnitte and nunatak: the winning words of the 2015 competition.

  1. In 2015-2016, more than 11 million students participate in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, starting at the school level competitions to qualifying regional bees. The first contest, in 1925, had only nine total spellers.

  2. The majority of the 285 contestants in the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee were in the eighth grade — 41.5 percent or 118 total students. There was only one third grader (or 0.4 percent) among all the spellers.

  3. The 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee was the most tweeted show of the week of May 25, beating shows such as “Game of Thrones and “The Bachelorette.”

  4. Last year, 57 spellers were “repeaters” — students who have competed before and not won the championship — including 2015 co-champions Vanya Shivashankar (five-year repeater) and Gokul Venkatachalam (four-year repeater).

  5. Could 2016 be another year of co-champions? It happened in 2015 and in 2014 with winners Sriram Hathwar and Ansun Sujoe. Before then, co-champions had only happened three other times in Bee history (1950, 1957 and 1962).

  6. In 2015, 36 spellers had relatives who have competed in a combined 81 Scripps National Spelling Bees. In fact, 2015 co-champion Vanya Shivashankar has a sibling who won the competition.

  7. The Scripps National Spelling Bee was first broadcast on network television in 1946.

  8. Since 1978, the Scripps National Spelling Bee has welcomed participants from outside the 50 United States. This year we welcome participants from American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Canada, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan and South Korea.

  9. In 1996, Jimmy McCarthy of St. Petersburg, Florida became the first profoundly deaf speller to compete at the national level. He tied for 48th place in a field of 247 spellers.

  10. The 21 consonants of the alphabet have names that can be spelled: bee, cee, dee, ef, gee, aitch, jay, kay (also ka), el, em, en, pee, cue, ar, ess (or es), tee, vee, double-u (or double-you), ex, wye (or wy) and zee.

  11. The French word connoisseur has been the most frequently used word on Scripps National Spelling Bee word lists.

  12. 2005 champion Anurag Kashyap and 1992 champion Amanda Goad added another title to their collection. Both have won the “Jeopardy! Teen Tournament”.

  13. There was no Scripps National Spelling Bee from 1943-1945. It was called off due to World War II.

  14. There are 472,000 words in the Scripps National Spelling Bee’s official dictionary, Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, © 2002.

  15. The origin of the term spelling bee is unknown, according to the official Scripps National Spelling Bee website. A bee has been known as a social gathering where people participate in one activity, such as a quilting bee. Other theories believe there may be a connection with the insect, comparing the spelling bee to the “industrious, social nature of a beehive.”

Think you have what it takes to shine on the Scripps National Spelling Bee stage? Take the following sample quiz from the competition's required vocabulary preliminary exam to test your word power.