National Spelling Bee kicks off with a new twist — vocabulary tests


Anne-Marie Mitroi Sprenger, 13, of Provo, Utah fidgets at the Scripps National Spelling Bee semifinals in 2011. (Linda Davidson/THE WASHINGTON POST)

With words like esquamulose, staphylococci and Laodicean, winning the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee has never been easy. This year, the competition is getting an added twist — in addition to spelling the words, competitors must also define them.

Do you know what chiaroscurist means?

According to contest organizers, nearly 300 spellers ranging in age from 8 to 14 will gather in Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at National Harbor on Tuesday for the start of the four-day competition. Round One will consist of the traditional 24-word written spelling test plus, for the first time, three sections of words to define.

“Spelling and vocabulary are, in essence, two sides of the same coin,” said contest director Paige Kimble in a news release. “As a child studies the spelling of a word and its etymology, he will discover its meaning. As a child learns the meaning of a word, it becomes easier to spell. And all of this enhances the child’s knowledge of the English language.”

The public portion of the spelling bee begins Wednesday. Survivors will face additional spelling and vocabulary tests before the bee culminates Thursday evening. The finals will be broadcast live on ESPN starting at 8 p.m.

The champion will win a $30,000 cash prize, a $2,500 U.S. savings bond, collections of dictionaries and encyclopedias and an engraved trophy.

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