12 incredibly hard-to-spell words that have won the Scripps National Spelling Bee

Scripps Spelling BeeREUTERS/Molly RileyLance Letson Hungar of McLean, Virginia, waits for his turn during the semi-final round of the 2008 Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington May 30, 2008.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee finals air Thursday night on ESPN, and the winning word could be one you’ve never even heard, let alone know how to spell.

In a rare tie last year, Texas teenager Ansun Sujoe gave up on trying to pronounce the winning word, just saying “whatever” and proceeding to spell it.

That word was
feuilleton, a section of a European periodical designated for gossip and other topics that would appeal to the general reader (sort of like the New York Times’ style section).

The other winning word, stichomythia, means a dispute delivered by actors in alternating lines, like in classical Greek drama.

The winning words weren’t always this arcane or difficult to spell. In 1932, for example, the winning word was knack. The word interning won in 1936, and therapy took the prize four years later. Since the 1950s, though, the Bee has featured words like cymotrichous that might have educated people scratching their heads.

We looked back at some of the biggest head-scratchers that won the Bee:

cymotrichous (adj.) — having wavy hair

Spelled by Sukanya Roy.

2009: Laodician (adj.) — lukewarm or indifferent in religion or politics

Spelled by Kavya Shivashankar.

Spelling bee ScrippsReuters/Kevin LamarqueCo-winner Ansun Sujoe of Fort Worth, Texas spells a word during the 87th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee at National Harbour, Maryland May 29, 2014.

2004: autochthonous (adj.) — formed or originating in the place where found, native

Spelled by David Tidmarsh.

2002: prospicience (noun) — the act of looking forward, foresight

Spelled by Pratyush Buddiga.

1999: logorrhea (adj.) — excessive and often incoherent talkativeness or wordiness

Spelled by Nupur Lala.

1997: euonym (noun) — a name well suited to the person, place, or thing named

Spelled by Rebecca Sealfon.

vivisepulture (noun) — the act or practice of burying alive

Spelled by Wendy Guey.

odontalgia (noun) — toothache

Spelled by Jon Pennington.

elucubrate (verb) — to solve, write or compose by working studiously at night.

Spelled by Jacques Bailly.

Evan O'Dorney Scripps National Spelling BeeREUTERS/Jason ReedEvan O’Dorney and his mother Jennifer laugh after he won the 2007 Scripps National Spelling Bee trophy in Washington May 31, 2007.

1962:esquamulose (adj.) — Not covered in scales, or of scale like objects, a smooth skin

Spelled by Nettie Crawford and Michael Day.

1961: smaragdine (adj.) — Of or relating to emeralds, having the colour of emeralds.

Spelled by John Capehart.

1960: eudaemonic (adj.) — producing happiness, based on the idea of happiness as the proper end of conduct

Spelled by Henry Feldman.

Walter Hickey wrote the original version of this post.

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