The Scripps National Spelling Bee is indubitably the world’s most famous, most established, and most respected spelling competition. Except for the National Education Association’s team-based spelling bee in 1908, the first nationally organized spelling competition was the 1925 Scripps National Spelling Bee. That bee featured nine contestants; the winner, spelling legend Frank Neuhauser, won the modern equivalent of $500 in gold pieces.
In each of the nearly 100 years since, the Scripps Bee seems to have gradually become more popular, more well-known, and more interesting, now boasting almost 60 times as many contestants (565 in 2019) and 100 times more prize money for the champ ($50,000 in 2019). The Bee’s already-growing popularity skyrocketed when it gained national media coverage on ESPN beginning in 1994.
The success of the Scripps Bee and the world’s ever-growing interest in the art of orthography has given rise to many other spelling bees initiated by different organizations. While these bees won’t be the setting for movies like the Akeelah and the Bee or Spellbound, nor be the avenue for contestants to ascend to national fame by becoming a Finalist, meme, or both, many are highly respected and just as hard to win.
Some quality memes from the last few Scripps Bees.
Among the most notable of these other bees are the AARP National Senior Spelling Bee, founded in 1996 for people 50 years old or more, and the South Asian Spelling Bee, founded in 2008 for contestants in eighth grade or below who are of South Asian descent.
Many of these bees have very good words at or above the difficulty of the words used at Scripps. Based on my analysis of the words Scripps has used for school, district/county, regional, and national competitions over the years, it’s possible—actually, likely—that Scripps word panelists consult the word lists used by other bees when selecting words. As just one of countless examples, words virement and izzat were used in the 2016 South Asian Spelling Bee Finals and were both also next year in the 2017 Scripps Finals.
So, what’s the takeaway? Check out the lists I have made in this section of words used in these “Non-Scripps Bees.” Study them, memorize them, and review them. They’ll help you prepare for any Non-Scripps Bee while simultaneously preparing you for any Scripps-administered bee—classroom, school, district/county, regional, or national.