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Spelling Bee

cartoon bee flying around the 26 letters of the alphabet
No. of Players: 2+
Type of Game: written or spoken
What you need: dictionary


To successfully spell a given word.

How to play

The gamemaster chooses words from a dictionary for the players to spell. Words are carefully pronounced, their definitions are given, words are placed in a sentence, and other information is provided as needed to minimize confusion (this is especially important in the case of homonyms). Points are given for spelling words correctly. If a player spells a word incorrectly, that player drops out of the game, or else he scores zero points and the next player gets a chance to spell that word. The last player left, or the player with the most points, wins the game and becomes the next gamemaster. Alternatively, the gamemaster can slowly read out a list of words which the players have to write down correctly. The player with the most correctly spelled words wins. If there are enough players, the game can also be played in two teams. In this case, team members choose words for the other team to spell for points. After a certain number of rounds are made, the team with the most points wins.

This game is similar to Reverse Spelling Bee and Group Spellers.


Abigail is elected to be gamemaster. She tells the players that correctly spelled words are worth five points.

Abigail: The first word is "eczema," pronounced "eg-zuh-muh." This is a medical condition in which patches of skin become rough and inflamed, with blisters that itch and bleed. Putting this word in a sentence: "The doctor diagnosed me with eczema, and sent me to a dermatologist for treatment."
Barclay: Ok, this word is spelled E–C–Z–E–M–A.
Abigail: Excellent! You score 5 points. The next word is "chihuahua," pronounced "chuh-waa-wuh." This is a small dog with smooth hair and large eyes, originating in Mexico. Putting it in a sentence: "My sister got a Chihuahua for Christmas last year."
Caiden: Chihuahua is spelled C–H–I–H–U–A–H–U–A.
Abigail: Yes! You score 5 points. The next word is...

And so on.

Did you know?

While there were sporadic spelling competitions as far back as the early 1800s, the annual National Spelling Bee as we know it today only started in 1925.

red gladiolus flower   purple gladiolus flower   yellow gladiolus flower

The winning word that year was gladiolus, a flowering plant in the iris family – spelled correctly by 11 year old Frank Neuhauser of Kentucky who won $500 and a trip to the White House to meet President Calvin Coolidge. But before you laugh at such a paltry amount, know that $500 in 1925 is roughly $8,000 in 2021.

small pile of gold coins

Morevoer, given that Frank's actual winnings were paid in gold pieces, and gold was $20 an ounce back then versus today's price of nearly $2,000 an ounce, that's a payout of around $50,000. Not a bad haul for the young lad!

Interestingly, some winning words of the National Spelling Bee don't seem to be all that hard. Consider these three: (hover over the words for their definitions)

Knack (1928)
Therapy (1940)
Initials (1941)

But how many people can spell these words correctly?

Eudaemonic (1960)
Staphylococci (1987)
Autochthonous (2004)
Cymotrichous (2011)
Scherenschnitte (2015)

Thank goodness for spell check!

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