The History Of The Spelling Bee

Find out about the history of the Spelling Bee contest
Image Credit by = Hector Mota


Chances are that in school at one time or another, you or someone you know participated in a Spelling Bee contest of some kind. But have you ever wondered about the history of the spelling bee and how it first originated? Let us examine the rules and regulations, the first winner and some really interesting facts behind this spelling competition.



What Is A Spelling Bee?


We know that bees are flying insects which can provide honey and play a major role in pollination. However, just exactly what is a spelling bee or what is the purpose of spelling bee?. Those two words which have become so popular actually refer to a contest, not an insect who spells words. The purpose of the spelling bee is to help people (particularly students) learn new words and improve their spelling skills. It can also increase their vocabularies, teach them to develop proper, correct English usage and help them learn concepts as well.


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A spelling bee is a competition where contestants are pitted against one another. They are then asked to spell a vast amount of words to see which contestant can correctly spell each one. The difficulty of the words varies depending on the ages of the participants and the level. The final winner is determined by the person who can lastly correctly spell a word. The spelling bee, which is also sometimes called a “Spelling B”, actually ended in a tie for the first time in almost 52 years in 2014.  This came about after days of competition where they ran out of words for contestants to spell. The final two winners were Ansun Sujoe, a seventh-grader from Fort Worth, Texas., and Sriram Hathwar, an eighth-grader from Painted Post, N.Y.



The Very First Spelling Bee


According to Wikipedia and other sources, some of the very first recorded evidence of spelling matches between contestants can date back to 1808. The earliest known evidence of the actual phrase ‘Spelling Bee’ being used was in 1850. However, it wasn’t until the year 1925 when the Louisville Courier-Journal actually sponsored the very first National Spelling Bee. Interesting enough, they were only going to include people from Kentucky at first. Nevertheless, they ensuingly decided into letting other contestants or champions from other states participate in the competition. In that very first spelling bee competition, the final winner was an 11 year old named Frank Neuhauser. The correct word which he ended up winning the contest with was “gladiolus”.



Interesting Facts About The Contest


In 1941, the Scripps Howard News Service ended up acquiring sponsorship of the spelling program. They then changed the name to Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. Still, they later simply changed it “Scripps National Spelling Bee”. The contestants come from all 50 U.S. states as well as several other countries in the world. One of the most interesting facts about the spelling bee competition is that the only person to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee who was not from the United States was a Jamaican girl named Jody-Anne Maxwell in 1998. Also, throughout the history of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, one of the most common used words in the competition has been the word “connoisseur”.



Information On The Next Bee


For anyone wondering about the competition, the official dictionary of the Scripps National Spelling Bee is Webster’s New International Dictionary. This dictionary contains about 473,000 words which students may have to end up trying to spell correctly in the contest.


In addition, May 24 to May 29, 2015 are the dates set for those wondering when the next National Spelling Bee will take place. You can also visit for additional information on Bee Week 2015 and  the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee contest.


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No matter how it all started, the truth is that the spelling bee competition has been a great tool for kids (and adults) from all over the world to learn new words. It also teaches people proper grammar, spelling and the correct usage of the English language. Competitions always work great as motivational factors which drive contestants to want to be the winner or be the best. So grab your dictionary and begin to get ready for the next competition. You may just end up being this year’s new winner.