8 finalists were named co-champions of the 2019 national spelling bee — here are the definitions of all the winning words from the last 25 years


This year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee had not one, but eight champions.

Each of the winners correctly spelled their given word: auslaut, erysipelas, bougainvillea, aiguillette, pendeloque, palama, cernuous, and odylic. A mix of adjectives and nouns, the words’ definitions range from the webbing on the feet of aquatic birds (palama) to a genus of American shrubs (bougainvillea).

Since the spelling bee’s inception in 1925, winners have spelled increasingly difficult words to earn the coveted trophy and $US50,000 prize. The past 25 years – broadcasted live on ESPN and ABC – include a diverse group of dictionary entries, from medical jargon to political terminology.


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The National Spelling Bee ended with 8 winners – here’s the winning word from every spelling bee since 1925

This year, the Bee ran out of challenging words to give contestants, ending the final round with an “unprecedented” eight-way tie: Rishik Gandhasri, Erin Howard, Saketh Sundar, Shruthika Padhy, Sohum Sukhatankar, Abhijay Kodali, Christopher Serrao and Rohan Raja. The New York Times’Daniel Victor tweeted that the co-champions beat the dictionary.

Keep reading for a look at the winning words from the past quarter century, from “xanthosis” in 1995 to this year’s eight.


1995: xanthosis

iStock / Getty Images PlusThe medical term ‘xanthosis’ was the winning word in the 1995 national spelling bee.

Definition of xanthosis: (noun) yellow discoloration of the skin from abnormal causes; a virus disease of the strawberry plant characterised by crinkling and curling, yellowing and dwarfing of the leaves, and stunting of the entire plant


1996: vivisepulture

Getty ImagesThe term ‘vivisepulture’ was the winning word the following year in 1996. The term means the act of burying alive.

Definition of vivisepulture: (noun) the act or practice of burying alive


1997: euonym

STEPHEN JAFFE / Staff / Getty ImagesRebecca A. Sealfon won the 70th Annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in 1997 by spelling the word ‘euonym’ correctly.

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


1998: chiaroscurist

PHAS / Contributor / Getty ImagesA 1655 painting by Karel van der Pluym titled ‘Man Reading, with Symbols of Transience’ utilises the chiaroscuro technique, playing with light and shadow.

Definition of chiaroscurist: (noun) an artist who specialises in chiaroscuro


1999: logorrhea

Definition of logorrhea: (noun) excessive and often incoherent talkativeness or wordiness


2000: démarche

Wikimedia CommonsThe United States Department of State, headquartered in the Harry S. Truman Building (pictured) in Washington, DC, issues démarches.

Definition of démarche: (noun) a course of action; manoeuvre; a diplomatic or political initiative or manoeuvre; a petition or protest presented through diplomatic channels


2001: succedaneum

Definition of succedaneum: (noun) substitute


2002: prospicience

Definition of prospicience: (noun) the act of looking forward; foresight


2003: pococurante

Definition of pococurante: (adjective) indifferent, nonchalant


2004: autochthonous

Federica Grassi / Getty ImagesThe phrase ‘autochthonous plants’ is synonymous with the more commonly used term ‘indigenous plants.’ Wild violets are autochthonous to North America.

Definition of autochthonous: (adjective) indigenous, native; formed or originating in the place where found


2005: appoggiatura

Cwsparke / Wikimedia CommonsAn example of an appoggiatura noted on sheet music.

Definition of appoggiatura: (noun) an embellishing note or tone preceding an essential melodic note or tone and usually written as a note of smaller size


2006: Ursprache

Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesKatharine Close holding the championship trophy after winning the 2006 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Definition of Ursprache: (noun) a parent language; especially one reconstructed from the evidence of later languages


2007: serrefine

Wikimedia CommonsSerrefine forceps.

Definition of serrefine: (noun) a small forceps for clamping a blood vessel


2008: guerdon

Definition of guerdon: (noun) reward, recompense


2009: Laodicean

Definition of Laodicean: (adjective) lukewarm or indifferent in religion or politics


2010: stromuhr

Medical Definition of stromuhr: (noun) a rheometer designed to measure the amount and speed of blood flow through an artery


2012: guetapens

Definition of guetapens: (noun) ambush, snare, trap


2011: cymotrichous

Definition of cymotrichous: (adjective) having the hair wavy


2013: knaidel

Definition of knaidel: (noun) matzo ball


2014: feuilleton, stichomythia

PHAS / Contributor / Getty ImagesAn example of a Spanish feuilleton from 1879.

Definition of feuilleton: (noun) a part of a European newspaper or magazine devoted to material designed to entertain the general reader; something (such as an instalment of a novel) printed in a feuilleton; a novel printed in installments; a work of fiction catering to popular taste; a short literary composition often having a familiar tone and reminiscent content

Definition of stichomythia: (noun) dialogue especially of altercation or dispute delivered by two actors in alternating lines (as in classical Greek drama)


2015: scherenschnitte, nunatak

REDA&CO / Contributor / Getty ImagesA nunatak near Ikerasak. Denmark.

Definition of scherenschnitte: (noun) the art of cutting paper into decorative designs

Definition of nunatak: (noun) a hill or mountain completely surrounded by glacial ice


2016: Feldenkrais, gesellschaft

The Sydney Morning Herald / Contributor / Getty ImagesRenee Pinshaw teaches a Feldenkrais class in St. Leonards, Sydney.

Medical Definition of Feldenkrais: (trademark) used for a system of aided body movements intended to increase bodily awareness and ease tension

Definition of gesellschaft: (noun) a rationally developed mechanistic type of social relationship characterised by impersonally contracted associations between persons; a community or society characterised by this relationship


2017: marocain

Getty Images/Conde Nast CollectionTwo models wearing marocain dresses in a 1932 issue of Vogue.

Definition of marocain: (noun) a ribbed crepe fabric used in women’s clothing


2018: koinonia

Wikimedia CommonsA stained glass window in a Christian church.

Definition of koinonia: (noun) the Christian fellowship or body of believers; intimate spiritual communion and participative sharing in a common religious commitment and spiritual community


2019: auslaut, erysipelas, bougainvillea, aiguillette, pendeloque, palama, cernuous, odylic

Definition of auslaut: (noun) final sound in a word or syllable; end position of a sound in a word or syllable

Definition of erysipelas: (noun) an acute febrile disease associated with intense edematous local inflammation of the skin and subcutaneous tissues caused by a hemolytic streptococcus

Definition of bougainvillea: (noun) any of a genus (Bougainvillaea) of the four-o’clock family of ornamental tropical American woody vines and shrubs with brilliant purple or red floral bracts

Definition of aiguillette: (noun) aglet; specifically, a shoulder cord worn by designated military aides

Definition of pendeloque: (noun) a diamond or other gemstone cut in the form of a pear-shaped brilliant with a table; briolette; a usually pear-shaped glass pendant used for ornamenting a lamp or chandelier

Definition of palama: (noun) the webbing on the feet of aquatic birds

Definition of cernuous: (adjective) inclining or nodding; pendulous; dropping

Definition of odylic: (adjective) of or relating to odyl

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