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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'!"
  • Nikhil Sonnad
By Nikhil Sonnad

Reporter

Published Last updated on 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.

WordMisspelling
metastasizematastasize
metastesize
metastacize
matastacise
metonymymetonomy
metonomy
metonomy
metonomy
weimaranerweimariner
whymeraner
weimeraner
vimeroner
amaryllisameryllis
amarillus
amoryllis
apparatchikoperachik
apparchik
apparatchic
asanaoscina
ocena
ocina
asceticaescetic
acetic
ascedic
beelzebubbelzebub
beezlebub
biezelbub
beignetbanet
beigne
baignette
caseincasseine
caseine
caseine
commissarcomissar
commasar
comissar
cynosuresinischure
synosure
synosure
cyrillicsyrillic
serillic
cerilic
damocleandamaclean
damaclean
damochlian
desuetudedesuitude
desuitude
dessuitude
dossierdocier
dociet
dociere
fanfaronadefanferanade
fanfarinade
fanfarronade
ferrulepharel
ferrel
feril
ginglymusginglamus
ginglemous
ginglimus
homologatehomaligate
homoligate
homaligate
kinurakynura
kanoura
chinura
marcescentmarcesscant
marcessant
marcesant
monturemauncher
moncheur
moncheur
mucilaginousmuculagenous
mucelagenous
muscillaginous
mussitationmusatacion
mucitation
muscitation
myriacanthousmyriacanthus
meriocanthous
mirocanthous
palaverpollaver
pulavor
polaver
perorationpararasion
pareration
pereration
philatelyphalatally
filiality
phalately
procellousprocellus
procellus
procellas
quinquevirquinquevere
quinquvere
quinquivere
ranunculusrenunculous
renunculus
rununculus
rasgadoroscado
rhosgotto
rosgatto
ravigoteravigot
ravigotte
ravigode
sassafrassassafrass
sassafrass
sassafrass
sciamachypsyamichy
syamikey
siamachy
senarycenary
cenary
senery
sessilececile
cecile
cecile
siderealciderial
siderial
siderial
tachytelytakately
tacatelli
tachetelli
termagancytermigancy
termigancy
termigancy
timbaletimbol
timbal
tambal
tinnitustinitus
tenitus
tenitis
toiletoil
twall
tuall
trypanosomiasistrapanasomiasis
tripansomiasis
tripanosomiasis
turgescenttergescent
tergescent
tergescent
venireveniery
veniry
veniary
virgulevergule
vergole
verguil
zucchettozucchedo
zeuchetto
zhuchetto
aberrationabboration
aboration
acerbityasserbity
asurbity
ageusiaagusia
augusia
aioliaeole
aeoli
almoneralminer
alminer
aniseikoniaaniciconia
aniseikonya
aphorismaffirism
apherism
apocryphalapocriphal
apocraful
apolausticapolostic
apolostic
aposiopesisaposiapesis
apacyapesis
apotropaicapotrypaic
appatropaic
araneiformaraneaform
areneiform
arcologyarchology
arcologe
areologyaeriology
aryology
assuageaussuage
aswage
atelieratelyay
ateeaie
atrabiliousatrobilious
atribilious
auspiceshospices
ospisces
avgolemonoovgolemono
ovgolemono
avocetavoset
avisette
bacteriolyticbacterialytic
bacterialytic
balkanizebalcanize
balconize
basmatibazmati
bazmati
battledorebattldor
battledour
beethovenianbeethovenean
beatovinian
betonybettany
bettony
boudinboudane
boudain
bouleuterionbuluterion
buluterion
braggadociobraggedocio
bragadoshio
brigadierbrigadere
brigadeer
bullionistboullionist
boullonist
burinburen
bueron
cabeceracabasaret
cabacera
cabochoncabichon
cabachon
cabotinagecabatanage
cabotonnage
caitiffcatiff
catif
cappelletticapiltti
cappelleti
caracolecaricole
cericole
ceraceoussurracious
surracious
chalicosischalichosis
calicosis
chautauquachataqua
chataqua
chevelurechevalure
cheveleur
chrystocrenecrystocrene
crystacrene
clerisyclarisy
claracy
coadjutorcoajutar
coadjuter
coiffeusequaffuse
quafus
colluctationcolloctation
colloctation
collutoriumcolitorium
collitorium
concomitanceconcommitance
concomittance
connoisseurcoinnisseur
connaisseur
consulateconsillate
consolate
contumeliouscontimeleous
contemelious
conurbationconnerbation
connerbation
corollarycorillary
corelary
corticolinecorticholine
cortikaline
coscinomancycausinomancy
coscimancy
cotyledoncodyleton
cotelydon
crinolinecriloine
crinaline
criollocreolo
criolo
cyanophyceancyanophytion
cyanophycein
cytolysiscitolosis
cytolosis
deliquescedelaquesce
delaquess
demegoricdemagoric
demagoric
demesnedemaine
domain
denierduniere
deneir
deplorabledeplorible
diplorable
dholedohl
dole
dirndldirndle
deirndal
distractibledistractable
distractable
dolcissimodolchisimo
dulcisimo
dolorifugedelorifuge
delorafuge
doyendoyenne
douillen
dromomaniadramamania
dramamania
dysphoriadisphoria
disforium
echinulateacconulate
euchilant
ectocanthionectocanthian
ectocantheon
encolureenquelure
oncholeure
engastrimythicengastromythic
angastramythic
ennuiannui
onwei
ententeentaunt
entent
ephemerisephemerus
aphemerus
epicondylicepichondylic
epicondilic
erinaceousaranaceous
arronatious
eristicerristic
erristic
erythemaerrathema
arathema
espagnoleespaniolle
aspanol
espousalespousel
espowsel
estoppelastoppel
estauple
etouffeeetufe
etoufet
eucrasiaeuchrasia
euchrasia
execrableexsicrible
exacerbole
exegeticalexagetical
exogetical
faineantfeignient
fanient
fallibilityfalability
fallability
farcicalpharcicle
farsicle
feisfeche
feche
fettuccellefettuccelli
fettuccelli
fibrillationfibrilation
fibrilation
filipendulousphilipendulus
filapendulous
filosellefilasel
philasel
florisugentfloriceugent
florasugent
fodientfodiant
fodiant
foraminateferaminate
feraminate
fortissimofortisimo
fortisimmo
fustianfustion
fustion
gamopetalousgammapedalous
gammapedalus
garibaldigarrabaldi
garribaldi
gastrilegousgastrilogous
gastrilogous
gegenscheingagenschein
geganschein
gendarmejondar
jendarm
gerontologygerantology
gerentology
gesundheitguzundheit
geisundheit
gibraltargibralter
jebralter
gimbalgimble
gimbel
girandolegerandole
gierendole
glottogonicglotogonic
glotogonic
gloucesterglaucester
glauster
gnathonicnathonic
nathonic
grallatorialgralitorial
gralitorial
graupelgroupl
grouple
gutturalgutteral
gutteral
hafizhophis
haffis
hauteurauteur
haughture
heliciformhalliciform
haliciform
hepatomegalyhepitomegaly
hepitomegaly
hierophanthieraphant
hyaraphant
hoylehoiyal
hoile
huapangowapango
wapango
hussarhazar
huzzar
ibuprofenibuprofin
ibuprofine
ichneumonicnumen
ichnumen
idyllicidillic
idealic
imprimaturimprimater
imprateur
incalescentincalescant
incolescent
ingenueenjenu
angenue
inquilineinqualine
inqualine
insalubriousinsullubrious
inselubrious
insatiateinsaciat
insaciat
intussusceptioninteseception
intususception
involucreinvelucer
involucar
jardinierejardinier
gardiniere
kaiserdomchaiserdom
keizerdom
keeshondkeyshond
kaushaund
kwashiorkorquashiorcor
quashiorcor
lacertilianlacertillian
lacertillian
languorouslangarous
langorous
languorouslylangerously
langorously
laniarylaniery
lanniary
laparoscopylaperoscopy
laperiscopy
lecithinlecithyn
lecathon
lefselevsa
lephsa
liaiseliase
liase
lidocainelidocain
lydocane
limogeslemoge
limouge
lugubriouslegubrius
lagubrious
lumbriciformlumbrisciform
lumbrisuform
macadammacatomb
mecadm
macilencymascillency
masolency
magistracymagistrusy
magestrosy
mandirmundhir
mundier
manducatorymangicatory
mangigatory
melittologistmelatologist
melatologist
meniscusmaniscuss
moniscus
mergansermergancer
mergancer
mikadomikito
mukado
minatoryminotory
minotory
minestroneministroni
ministrone
minyanminion
mignon
misopedistmisopedas
myssopedist
moresmoires
morass
mouchoirmouchoire
mouchoire
mousselinemuslene
mouseline
mugientmugeant
mugeant
musciformmussiform
musiform
muumuumumu
mumu
mynheerminheire
mineherr
myocarditismyecarditis
myacarditis
nacrenachre
gnaker
nadirnader
nader
nastaliqnastilique
nastellique
naumachiagnomicchia
nomacia
nepenthenepenthy
napenthy
nephelognosynephelognacy
nephalognosy
niseinicesay
nesae
novercalnavercal
nevircal
novilleronoviero
novellero
nudicaulousneuticalus
nuticholous
nyctipelagicnyctapelagic
nichtopelagic
obtenebrateobtinibrate
obtenabrate
obtundentobtundant
obtundant
ocarinaacarina
ocarine
ocellusocellace
ocelis
ocotilloocatillo
ocatillo
octateuchochituke
octicute
omodyniaomodinia
omodinnia
onomasticonaunimosticaun
onimasticon
ophryonoffrean
ophreon
opinicusopennicus
opinicous
opprobriousapprobrious
approbrious
oppugnopugn
appune
ordnancehordenance
ordinance
ossifrageossifrige
ossifrige
otacousticotocoustic
odicoustic
pachymeterpachimeter
puchimeter
palatalizepalatilize
pallitalize
palatinatepolatinate
pollatinate
palilaliapalolalia
palilelia
palimpsestpalimpcest
palympcest
pallescentpalescent
palescent
panettonepanatony
pannettone
papeteriepapetrie
pepetreau
paristhmionparismean
parismion
parityparedy
parody
parquetparkay
parquette
parterrepartare
partare
pastichepastische
pasdishe
patoispatoir
patrois
pekoepeco
peekoe
pendeloquepandaloque
pondyloc
penicillinpenicilin
pennecilin
penitentiarypenetentiary
penetentiary
pentateuchalpentitucal
pentatuchal
pergameneouspurgaminious
pergamineous
periegesisperiogesis
perigesys
periphrasisparaphrasis
periphresis
periphytonperipheton
peripheton
petechialpatechial
poticial
pfeffernusspfeffernus
feiffernuse
phalacrosisfalacrosis
falachrosis
piattipiate
piati
pickelhaubepickelhauber
picklehaube
pileumpilleum
pyllium
piloncillopiloncilo
piloncio
pinnipedpinaped
pinaped
pizzicatopitsicato
pizzacato
podilegouspodillogous
podilogous
porphyryporphery
porphery
pratincolouspretincolous
pretincolous
primatialprimacial
primacial
proboscisprobosquess
probascis
prolegomenonprologomonon
prologomonon
prurituspruritis
preuritis
psylliumscilium
scylium
pultaceouspoltaceous
pultatious
putativeputitive
puditive
quadragenarianquadgenarian
quadregenarian
quenellecannel
canel
quoddyquadi
quadi
quodlibetquadlaubette
quadlebet
quokkaquakka
quaka
raninereynine
rainine
rankinerankin
rankin
rariorarareora
rareora
rasorialrussorial
rascorial
ratafiaratofeia
ratifia
rayonnantrayunnant
rayonant
reblochonreblechon
roblochon
recensionrescension
resention
refocillaterefoscilate
refossillate
resipiscencerecipisance
recipiscence
rhodochrositerhodocrosite
rhodocrosite
rictusrictous
richtus
rotogravurerotagraviewer
rotagravure
rouxrue
rew
rurigenousruriginous
ruriginous
sabotsaboe
sabbot
saccharinitysacarinity
sacchirinity
saltimboccasoltimboca
saltambaca
salutarysaliatary
saluetary
saponaceoussapinacious
sapenaceous
sarrusophonesarusophon
serusiphone
saxicoloussacsiccolous
saccicolus
saxifragesaxifrige
saxofrage
scabrousscabbrous
scaberous
schlossschlass
schlauss
schwarmereisvermari
schwermerei
scialyticsciolytic
sciolytic
sciaticacyatica
psyatica
sciolisticscialistic
coelistic
scurrilousscirolous
scurilous
secessionsusession
siscetion
seguesegway
segway
semplicesemplace
semplicce
sequelasequella
secuela
seriatimseriatum
siriatim
serotinalcerotinal
ceratinal
serrulateceryalate
cerulate
siffilatesiphylate
siphylate
siphonapterologypsyphenapterology
sciphenapterology
skeuomorphscuomorph
scuomorph
sommasama
sama
soubresautsoubruso
subreso
sousaphonesuziphone
souspohone
souterrainsueterrane
suterain
spinetspinnit
spinnet
splanchnologysplanknology
splanknology
sporogenoussporagenous
sporagenous
strychninestricnine
stricknine
stypticstiptic
stiptic
succorancesuccarance
succarence
sussultatorysecultatory
cessultatory
suzerainsouserin
susurain
sylphsilth
sylf
syringadenoussyringadinous
seringadinous
tagliatelletalliatelle
taliatelle
tattersalltattersal
tattersaul
tawdrilytaudrally
taudraly
tectogenetechtogene
techtegene
teratologicalterratalogical
terytalogical
terpsichoreterpsichory
turpsichory
thesmothetethesmathete
thesmathete
tinnienttinient
teniunt
tocsintoxin
tauksen
tokamaktocamach
tockamac
tombolotombulow
tambalo
torquemadatorquamodda
torquematta
torronetaroni
tironi
totipotencytotipotancy
totipettancy
trabanttrabont
trabont
trabeatedtrabiated
trabiated
triquetratriquitra
triquietra
trophallaxistroxolexus
trophilaxis
trouvailletrouvail
truvai
truncaltrunkal
trunkal
turbinadoturbenadot
turbonado
ululantundulant
olullent
umbrageousumbragious
umbragious
unconscionableuncontionable
unconcionable
vaquerovacerou
vacerro
varguenovergueno
vargaino
variorumveriorum
variorium
velitationvellitation
veletation
verbigerationverbidgeration
verbidgeration
veridicalvaridical
varitical
vexillologyvexalology
vexillolgy
viridescentviradescent
veradescent
vitrophyrevitrifier
vitrifier
viviparousviviperous
viviperous
voortrekkerforetreker
vortrekker
wastrelwastrail
wastral
weltschmerzveltschmerz
weldschmerz
wenzelwensel
wensel
witloofwitlauf
witloaf
zaibatsuxybatsu
zaibotsu

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

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