BEE STRONG

The champions and winning words from the last 20 years of spelling bees

Karthik Nemmani stands alone.
Karthik Nemmani stands alone.
Image: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
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The Scripps National Spelling Bee, America’s foremost test of children’s spelling abilities, has crowned 14-year-old Karthik Nemmani of Texas as champion for correctly spelling the winning word—koinonia.

Dictionaries define the word as a noun meaning “intimate spiritual communion and participative sharing in a common religious commitment and spiritual community.”

Yes, obscure competition words stretch the limits of almost all adults. Yet sometimes just a silent letter or surprising vowel digraph can be enough to make a simple sounding word challenging. Take for example 2013’s deceptively difficult winning word: “knaidel,” the Yiddish word for a matzo ball.

This year there were 516 registered spellers from US states and territories, the Bahamas, Canada, Ghana, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

You can read through the bee’s winning words dating back to 1925 at its website. Here are the winners from the past two decades, and the word they had to spell to take home the trophy:

2018: Karthik Nemmani – koinonia

Karthik Nemmani, 14, from McKinney, Texas, holds the Scripps National Spelling Bee Championship trophy.
Karthik Nemmani, 14, from McKinney, Texas, holds the Scripps National Spelling Bee Championship trophy.
Image: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

2017: Ananya Vinay – marocain

Ananya Vinay, 12, from Fresno, Calif., with her mother.
Ananya Vinay, 12, from Fresno, Calif., with her mother.
Image: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

2016: Jairam Hathwar and Nihar Janga – Feldenkrais, gesellschaft

Co-champions Jairam Hathwar, 13, of Painted Post, New York, and Nihar Janga, 11, of Austin, Texas.
Co-champions Jairam Hathwar, 13, of Painted Post, New York, and Nihar Janga, 11, of Austin, Texas.
Image: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

2015: Gokul Venkatachalam and Vanya Shivashankar – nunatak, scherenschnitte

Co-champions Vanya Shivashankar, of Olathe, Kansas, and Gokul Venkatachalam, of St. Louis, Missouri.
Co-champions Vanya Shivashankar, of Olathe, Kansas, and Gokul Venkatachalam, of St. Louis, Missouri.
Image: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

2014: Ansun Sujoe and Sriram Hathwar – feuilleton, stichomythia

Co-champions Ansun Sujoe, 13, of Fort Worth, Texas, and Sriram Hathwar, 14, of Painted Post, New York.
Co-champions Ansun Sujoe, 13, of Fort Worth, Texas, and Sriram Hathwar, 14, of Painted Post, New York.
Image: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

2013: Arvind Mahankali – knaidel

Arvind Mahankali, 13, of Bayside Hills, New York.
Arvind Mahankali, 13, of Bayside Hills, New York.
Image: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

2012: Snigdha Nandipati – guetapens

Snigdha Nandipati, 14, of San Diego, California
Snigdha Nandipati, 14, of San Diego, California
Image: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

2011: Sukanya Roy – cymotrichous

Sukanya Roy, 14, of South Abington Township, Pennsylvania.
Sukanya Roy, 14, of South Abington Township, Pennsylvania.
Image: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

2010: Anamika Veeramani – stromuhr

Anamika Veeramani, 14, of North Royalton, Ohio.
Anamika Veeramani, 14, of North Royalton, Ohio.
Image: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

2009: Kavya Shivashankar – Laodicean

Kavya Shivashankar, 13, of Olathe, Kansas.
Kavya Shivashankar, 13, of Olathe, Kansas.
Image: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

2008: Sameer Mishra – guerdon

Sameer Mishra, from West Lafayette, Indiana.
Sameer Mishra, from West Lafayette, Indiana.
Image: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

2007: Evan M. O’Dorney – serrefine

Evan M. O’Dorney, 13, of San Ramon, California.
Evan M. O’Dorney, 13, of San Ramon, California.
Image: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

2006: Kerry Close – Ursprache

Kerry Close of Spring Lake, New Jersey.
Kerry Close of Spring Lake, New Jersey.
Image: AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson

2005: Anurag Kashyap – appoggiatura

Anurag Kashyap, 13, of Poway, California.
Anurag Kashyap, 13, of Poway, California.
Image: AP Photo/Linda Spillers

2004: David Tidmarsh – autochthonous

David Tidmarsh, 14, of South Bend, Indiana.
David Tidmarsh, 14, of South Bend, Indiana.
Image: AP Photo/Linda Spillers

2003: Sai R. Gunturi – pococurante

Sai R.. Gunturi, 13, of Dallas, Texas.
Sai R.. Gunturi, 13, of Dallas, Texas.
Image: AP Photo/Ron Edmonds

2002: Pratyush Buddiga – prospicience

Pratyush Buddiga of Denver, Colorado.
Pratyush Buddiga of Denver, Colorado.
Image: Reuters/William Philpott

2001: Sean Conley – succedaneum

Sean Conley, 13, of Anoka, Minnesota.
Sean Conley, 13, of Anoka, Minnesota.
Image: AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt

2000: George Abraham Thampy – demarche

George Abraham Thampy, 12 of Maryland Heights, Missouri.
George Abraham Thampy, 12 of Maryland Heights, Missouri.
Image: AP Photo/Hillery Smith Garrison

1999: Nupur Lala – logorrhea

Nupur Lala, 14, from Tampa, Florida.
Nupur Lala, 14, from Tampa, Florida.
Image: AP Photo/Ron Edmonds

1998: Jody-Anne Maxwell – chiaroscurist

Jody-Anne Maxwell, 12, of Ardenne High School in Kingston, Jamaica.
Jody-Anne Maxwell, 12, of Ardenne High School in Kingston, Jamaica.
Image: AP Photo/Ron Edmonds