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AFFIRISM

The words that America’s spelling champions keep getting wrong

Charles Millard of Frederick, Maryland, misspells a word during the Scripps National Spelling Bee at National Harbor in Maryland, U.S. May 29, 2018.
Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
“It was an ‘s’!”
By Nikhil Sonnad
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

To make it to the limelight of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, American middle-schoolers need to be able to spell some of the English language’s most obscure words. In 2015, the winning word was scherenschnitte, whatever that means.

But a few words regularly trip up great spellers. Since 1996, the three most-misspelled words at the spelling bee have been “metastasize,” “metonymy,” and “weimaraner.”

Each of the three words above was spelled incorrectly four times in the past 20 years or so, according to Quartz’s analysis of records collected by data scientist Christopher Long (whose website URL is statistics.sexy). Most of the misspellings are pretty close, just off by one letter, like “matastasize” and “metastesize.” That’s not the case for “weimaraner,” a dog breed named after the German city of Weimar, which spellers have tried to spell as “vimeroner” and “whymeraner.”

Here are all 383* of the words that Scripps Spelling Bee spellers got wrong two or more times, including the incorrect spellings they attempted. See if you can do any better.

metastasize
matastasize
metastesize
metastacize
matastacise
metonymy
metonomy
metonomy
metonomy
metonomy
weimaraner
weimariner
whymeraner
weimeraner
vimeroner
amaryllis
ameryllis
amarillus
amoryllis
apparatchik
operachik
apparchik
apparatchic
asana
oscina
ocena
ocina
ascetic
aescetic
acetic
ascedic
beelzebub
belzebub
beezlebub
biezelbub
beignet
banet
beigne
baignette
casein
casseine
caseine
caseine
commissar
comissar
commasar
comissar
cynosure
sinischure
synosure
synosure
cyrillic
syrillic
serillic
cerilic
damoclean
damaclean
damaclean
damochlian
desuetude
desuitude
desuitude
dessuitude
dossier
docier
dociet
dociere
fanfaronade
fanferanade
fanfarinade
fanfarronade
ferrule
pharel
ferrel
feril
ginglymus
ginglamus
ginglemous
ginglimus
homologate
homaligate
homoligate
homaligate
kinura
kynura
kanoura
chinura
marcescent
marcesscant
marcessant
marcesant
monture
mauncher
moncheur
moncheur
mucilaginous
muculagenous
mucelagenous
muscillaginous
mussitation
musatacion
mucitation
muscitation
myriacanthous
myriacanthus
meriocanthous
mirocanthous
palaver
pollaver
pulavor
polaver
peroration
pararasion
pareration
pereration
philately
phalatally
filiality
phalately
procellous
procellus
procellus
procellas
quinquevir
quinquevere
quinquvere
quinquivere
ranunculus
renunculous
renunculus
rununculus
rasgado
roscado
rhosgotto
rosgatto
ravigote
ravigot
ravigotte
ravigode
sassafras
sassafrass
sassafrass
sassafrass
sciamachy
psyamichy
syamikey
siamachy
senary
cenary
cenary
senery
sessile
cecile
cecile
cecile
sidereal
ciderial
siderial
siderial
tachytely
takately
tacatelli
tachetelli
termagancy
termigancy
termigancy
termigancy
timbale
timbol
timbal
tambal
tinnitus
tinitus
tenitus
tenitis
toile
toil
twall
tuall
trypanosomiasis
trapanasomiasis
tripansomiasis
tripanosomiasis
turgescent
tergescent
tergescent
tergescent
venire
veniery
veniry
veniary
virgule
vergule
vergole
verguil
zucchetto
zucchedo
zeuchetto
zhuchetto
aberration
abboration
aboration
acerbity
asserbity
asurbity
ageusia
agusia
augusia
aioli
aeole
aeoli
almoner
alminer
alminer
aniseikonia
aniciconia
aniseikonya
aphorism
affirism
apherism
apocryphal
apocriphal
apocraful
apolaustic
apolostic
apolostic
aposiopesis
aposiapesis
apacyapesis
apotropaic
apotrypaic
appatropaic
araneiform
araneaform
areneiform
arcology
archology
arcologe
areology
aeriology
aryology
assuage
aussuage
aswage
atelier
atelyay
ateeaie
atrabilious
atrobilious
atribilious
auspices
hospices
ospisces
avgolemono
ovgolemono
ovgolemono
avocet
avoset
avisette
bacteriolytic
bacterialytic
bacterialytic
balkanize
balcanize
balconize
basmati
bazmati
bazmati
battledore
battldor
battledour
beethovenian
beethovenean
beatovinian
betony
bettany
bettony
boudin
boudane
boudain
bouleuterion
buluterion
buluterion
braggadocio
braggedocio
bragadoshio
brigadier
brigadere
brigadeer
bullionist
boullionist
boullonist
burin
buren
bueron
cabecera
cabasaret
cabacera
cabochon
cabichon
cabachon
cabotinage
cabatanage
cabotonnage
caitiff
catiff
catif
cappelletti
capiltti
cappelleti
caracole
caricole
cericole
ceraceous
surracious
surracious
chalicosis
chalichosis
calicosis
chautauqua
chataqua
chataqua
chevelure
chevalure
cheveleur
chrystocrene
crystocrene
crystacrene
clerisy
clarisy
claracy
coadjutor
coajutar
coadjuter
coiffeuse
quaffuse
quafus
colluctation
colloctation
colloctation
collutorium
colitorium
collitorium
concomitance
concommitance
concomittance
connoisseur
coinnisseur
connaisseur
consulate
consillate
consolate
contumelious
contimeleous
contemelious
conurbation
connerbation
connerbation
corollary
corillary
corelary
corticoline
corticholine
cortikaline
coscinomancy
causinomancy
coscimancy
cotyledon
codyleton
cotelydon
crinoline
criloine
crinaline
criollo
creolo
criolo
cyanophycean
cyanophytion
cyanophycein
cytolysis
citolosis
cytolosis
deliquesce
delaquesce
delaquess
demegoric
demagoric
demagoric
demesne
demaine
domain
denier
duniere
deneir
deplorable
deplorible
diplorable
dhole
dohl
dole
dirndl
dirndle
deirndal
distractible
distractable
distractable
dolcissimo
dolchisimo
dulcisimo
dolorifuge
delorifuge
delorafuge
doyen
doyenne
douillen
dromomania
dramamania
dramamania
dysphoria
disphoria
disforium
echinulate
acconulate
euchilant
ectocanthion
ectocanthian
ectocantheon
encolure
enquelure
oncholeure
engastrimythic
engastromythic
angastramythic
ennui
annui
onwei
entente
entaunt
entent
ephemeris
ephemerus
aphemerus
epicondylic
epichondylic
epicondilic
erinaceous
aranaceous
arronatious
eristic
erristic
erristic
erythema
errathema
arathema
espagnole
espaniolle
aspanol
espousal
espousel
espowsel
estoppel
astoppel
estauple
etouffee
etufe
etoufet
eucrasia
euchrasia
euchrasia
execrable
exsicrible
exacerbole
exegetical
exagetical
exogetical
faineant
feignient
fanient
fallibility
falability
fallability
farcical
pharcicle
farsicle
feis
feche
feche
fettuccelle
fettuccelli
fettuccelli
fibrillation
fibrilation
fibrilation
filipendulous
philipendulus
filapendulous
filoselle
filasel
philasel
florisugent
floriceugent
florasugent
fodient
fodiant
fodiant
foraminate
feraminate
feraminate
fortissimo
fortisimo
fortisimmo
fustian
fustion
fustion
gamopetalous
gammapedalous
gammapedalus
garibaldi
garrabaldi
garribaldi
gastrilegous
gastrilogous
gastrilogous
gegenschein
gagenschein
geganschein
gendarme
jondar
jendarm
gerontology
gerantology
gerentology
gesundheit
guzundheit
geisundheit
gibraltar
gibralter
jebralter
gimbal
gimble
gimbel
girandole
gerandole
gierendole
glottogonic
glotogonic
glotogonic
gloucester
glaucester
glauster
gnathonic
nathonic
nathonic
grallatorial
gralitorial
gralitorial
graupel
groupl
grouple
guttural
gutteral
gutteral
hafiz
hophis
haffis
hauteur
auteur
haughture
heliciform
halliciform
haliciform
hepatomegaly
hepitomegaly
hepitomegaly
hierophant
hieraphant
hyaraphant
hoyle
hoiyal
hoile
huapango
wapango
wapango
hussar
hazar
huzzar
ibuprofen
ibuprofin
ibuprofine
ichneumon
icnumen
ichnumen
idyllic
idillic
idealic
imprimatur
imprimater
imprateur
incalescent
incalescant
incolescent
ingenue
enjenu
angenue
inquiline
inqualine
inqualine
insalubrious
insullubrious
inselubrious
insatiate
insaciat
insaciat
intussusception
inteseception
intususception
involucre
invelucer
involucar
jardiniere
jardinier
gardiniere
kaiserdom
chaiserdom
keizerdom
keeshond
keyshond
kaushaund
kwashiorkor
quashiorcor
quashiorcor
lacertilian
lacertillian
lacertillian
languorous
langarous
langorous
languorously
langerously
langorously
laniary
laniery
lanniary
laparoscopy
laperoscopy
laperiscopy
lecithin
lecithyn
lecathon
lefse
levsa
lephsa
liaise
liase
liase
lidocaine
lidocain
lydocane
limoges
lemoge
limouge
lugubrious
legubrius
lagubrious
lumbriciform
lumbrisciform
lumbrisuform
macadam
macatomb
mecadm
macilency
mascillency
masolency
magistracy
magistrusy
magestrosy
mandir
mundhir
mundier
manducatory
mangicatory
mangigatory
melittologist
melatologist
melatologist
meniscus
maniscuss
moniscus
merganser
mergancer
mergancer
mikado
mikito
mukado
minatory
minotory
minotory
minestrone
ministroni
ministrone
minyan
minion
mignon
misopedist
misopedas
myssopedist
mores
moires
morass
mouchoir
mouchoire
mouchoire
mousseline
muslene
mouseline
mugient
mugeant
mugeant
musciform
mussiform
musiform
muumuu
mumu
mumu
mynheer
minheire
mineherr
myocarditis
myecarditis
myacarditis
nacre
nachre
gnaker
nadir
nader
nader
nastaliq
nastilique
nastellique
naumachia
gnomicchia
nomacia
nepenthe
nepenthy
napenthy
nephelognosy
nephelognacy
nephalognosy
nisei
nicesay
nesae
novercal
navercal
nevircal
novillero
noviero
novellero
nudicaulous
neuticalus
nuticholous
nyctipelagic
nyctapelagic
nichtopelagic
obtenebrate
obtinibrate
obtenabrate
obtundent
obtundant
obtundant
ocarina
acarina
ocarine
ocellus
ocellace
ocelis
ocotillo
ocatillo
ocatillo
octateuch
ochituke
octicute
omodynia
omodinia
omodinnia
onomasticon
aunimosticaun
onimasticon
ophryon
offrean
ophreon
opinicus
opennicus
opinicous
opprobrious
approbrious
approbrious
oppugn
opugn
appune
ordnance
hordenance
ordinance
ossifrage
ossifrige
ossifrige
otacoustic
otocoustic
odicoustic
pachymeter
pachimeter
puchimeter
palatalize
palatilize
pallitalize
palatinate
polatinate
pollatinate
palilalia
palolalia
palilelia
palimpsest
palimpcest
palympcest
pallescent
palescent
palescent
panettone
panatony
pannettone
papeterie
papetrie
pepetreau
paristhmion
parismean
parismion
parity
paredy
parody
parquet
parkay
parquette
parterre
partare
partare
pastiche
pastische
pasdishe
patois
patoir
patrois
pekoe
peco
peekoe
pendeloque
pandaloque
pondyloc
penicillin
penicilin
pennecilin
penitentiary
penetentiary
penetentiary
pentateuchal
pentitucal
pentatuchal
pergameneous
purgaminious
pergamineous
periegesis
periogesis
perigesys
periphrasis
paraphrasis
periphresis
periphyton
peripheton
peripheton
petechial
patechial
poticial
pfeffernuss
pfeffernus
feiffernuse
phalacrosis
falacrosis
falachrosis
piatti
piate
piati
pickelhaube
pickelhauber
picklehaube
pileum
pilleum
pyllium
piloncillo
piloncilo
piloncio
pinniped
pinaped
pinaped
pizzicato
pitsicato
pizzacato
podilegous
podillogous
podilogous
porphyry
porphery
porphery
pratincolous
pretincolous
pretincolous
primatial
primacial
primacial
proboscis
probosquess
probascis
prolegomenon
prologomonon
prologomonon
pruritus
pruritis
preuritis
psyllium
scilium
scylium
pultaceous
poltaceous
pultatious
putative
putitive
puditive
quadragenarian
quadgenarian
quadregenarian
quenelle
cannel
canel
quoddy
quadi
quadi
quodlibet
quadlaubette
quadlebet
quokka
quakka
quaka
ranine
reynine
rainine
rankine
rankin
rankin
rariora
rareora
rareora
rasorial
russorial
rascorial
ratafia
ratofeia
ratifia
rayonnant
rayunnant
rayonant
reblochon
reblechon
roblochon
recension
rescension
resention
refocillate
refoscilate
refossillate
resipiscence
recipisance
recipiscence
rhodochrosite
rhodocrosite
rhodocrosite
rictus
rictous
richtus
rotogravure
rotagraviewer
rotagravure
roux
rue
rew
rurigenous
ruriginous
ruriginous
sabot
saboe
sabbot
saccharinity
sacarinity
sacchirinity
saltimbocca
soltimboca
saltambaca
salutary
saliatary
saluetary
saponaceous
sapinacious
sapenaceous
sarrusophone
sarusophon
serusiphone
saxicolous
sacsiccolous
saccicolus
saxifrage
saxifrige
saxofrage
scabrous
scabbrous
scaberous
schloss
schlass
schlauss
schwarmerei
svermari
schwermerei
scialytic
sciolytic
sciolytic
sciatica
cyatica
psyatica
sciolistic
scialistic
coelistic
scurrilous
scirolous
scurilous
secession
susession
siscetion
segue
segway
segway
semplice
semplace
semplicce
sequela
sequella
secuela
seriatim
seriatum
siriatim
serotinal
cerotinal
ceratinal
serrulate
ceryalate
cerulate
siffilate
siphylate
siphylate
siphonapterology
psyphenapterology
sciphenapterology
skeuomorph
scuomorph
scuomorph
somma
sama
sama
soubresaut
soubruso
subreso
sousaphone
suziphone
souspohone
souterrain
sueterrane
suterain
spinet
spinnit
spinnet
splanchnology
splanknology
splanknology
sporogenous
sporagenous
sporagenous
strychnine
stricnine
stricknine
styptic
stiptic
stiptic
succorance
succarance
succarence
sussultatory
secultatory
cessultatory
suzerain
souserin
susurain
sylph
silth
sylf
syringadenous
syringadinous
seringadinous
tagliatelle
talliatelle
taliatelle
tattersall
tattersal
tattersaul
tawdrily
taudrally
taudraly
tectogene
techtogene
techtegene
teratological
terratalogical
terytalogical
terpsichore
terpsichory
turpsichory
thesmothete
thesmathete
thesmathete
tinnient
tinient
teniunt
tocsin
toxin
tauksen
tokamak
tocamach
tockamac
tombolo
tombulow
tambalo
torquemada
torquamodda
torquematta
torrone
taroni
tironi
totipotency
totipotancy
totipettancy
trabant
trabont
trabont
trabeated
trabiated
trabiated
triquetra
triquitra
triquietra
trophallaxis
troxolexus
trophilaxis
trouvaille
trouvail
truvai
truncal
trunkal
trunkal
turbinado
turbenadot
turbonado
ululant
undulant
olullent
umbrageous
umbragious
umbragious
unconscionable
uncontionable
unconcionable
vaquero
vacerou
vacerro
vargueno
vergueno
vargaino
variorum
veriorum
variorium
velitation
vellitation
veletation
verbigeration
verbidgeration
verbidgeration
veridical
varidical
varitical
vexillology
vexalology
vexillolgy
viridescent
viradescent
veradescent
vitrophyre
vitrifier
vitrifier
viviparous
viviperous
viviperous
voortrekker
foretreker
vortrekker
wastrel
wastrail
wastral
weltschmerz
veltschmerz
weldschmerz
wenzel
wensel
wensel
witloof
witlauf
witloaf
zaibatsu
xybatsu
zaibotsu

*One caveat: The bee’s official results data for 2010 contains errors, and has been removed from this analysis.)

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