Scripps National Spelling Bee: 6 things to know

The last time a speller took to the stage for the National Spelling Bee was on May 31, 2019. But after more than a year away from the finals, spellers are ready to compete.

Here are five things to know about the National Spelling Bee.

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1. The first National Spelling Bee was held in 1925 and the winner used his home gardening education to take home the title. That’s because the winner, Frank Neuhauser, was able to spell gladiolus, a flower that grew in his back yard in Kentucky, The New York Times reported.

Neuhauser, according to his obituary that appeared in the Times in 2011, took home $500 in gold pieces and got to meet then-President Calvin Coolidge.

Neuhauser, who was 11 at the time, was also honored with a parade in Louisville and was given a new bike by his classmates.

2. The National Spelling Bee started as a promotional event by The Louisville Courier-Journal with a rival paper. The finals lasted only 90 minutes, The New York Times reported. It is now called the Scripps National Spelling Bee and, in 2021, is held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World.

3. Both the number of prizes and their value, have increased over the years. Here is a breakdown of what spellers will get in 2021.

All spellers:

  • Prize package with Bee souvenirs
  • Participation certificate
  • One-year subscription to Merriam-Webster Unabridged Online
  • One-year subscription to Britannica Online Premium
  • 2021 U.S. Mint Proof Set

Quarterfinalists:

  • Commemorative pin
  • $100 gift card

Semifinalists:

  • Commemorative medal
  • $500 gift card

Finalists:

  • Commemorative medal
  • Up to and including 7th place $2,000
  • 6th place - $2,500
  • 5th place - $5,000
  • 4th place - $10,000
  • 3rd place - $15,000
  • 2nd place - $25,000

Champion:

  • $50,000 cash prize from Scripps National Spelling Bee
  • Commemorative medal
  • Scripps Cup trophy
  • $2,500 cash prize from Merriam-Webster
  • Reference library
  • $400 of reference works from Encyclopedia Britannica
  • Three-year membership to Britannica Online Premium
  • School and sponsor will get engraved plaques

For more on the prizes and how ties are awarded, click here.

The financial prizes for quarterfinalists, semifinalists, finalists and champion are not cumulative.

4. The Spelling Bee has become part of popular culture outside of the competition itself. It has been the subject of books, movies and musicals, including “Akeelah and the Bee” and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” the Times reported.

5. Words have gotten more difficult since Neuhauser spelled gladiolus.

According to The New York Times, words that will come up in competition this year include:

6. There were eight co-champions at the 2019 spelling bee at the end of the 20th round, NRP reported.

  • Rishik Gandhasari was the first winner after spelling auslaut.
  • Erin Howard’s winning word was erysipelas.
  • Saketh Sundar’s winning word was bougainvillea.
  • Shruthika Padhy spelled aiguillette correctly.
  • Sohum Sukhatankar spelled pendeloque.
  • Abhijay Kodali won with palama.
  • Christopher Serrao had cernuous.
  • Rohan Raja spelled odylic to take the final spot in the group of winners.