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Words from 2021 National Spelling Bee



Definitions are taken from Merriam-Webster, the dictionary partner of Scripps spelling bee, and sentences come from the New York Times archive where possible. (Example sentences that do not end with a publication date are inventions.)

  • vamoose: to travel fast. “Every town, every village, and every man is for the Union, and if a single landscape in the gallant Grizzly Bear State ends up a traitor, the villains had better vamoose right away.” – May 23, 1861

  • arenicolous: live, digging or growing in sand. “Incidentally, marine arenicolous annelider is commonly known to fishermen as sandworms.”

    ; – December 3, 1928

  • gelometer: an instrument for measuring gel strength. “When studying memorabilia as an original gelometer, a device that tested Jell-O structure, some people spoke spiritually.” – 27 July 1997

  • garrulity: the quality of being given to prosy, wandering or dull loquacity; meaningless or annoyingly talkative. “His exhausted servants are compelled to listen for hours to revival services performed by him on a hissing body, and he is subject to changing garrality and silence.” – April 16, 1923

  • antikary: tendency to inhibit the formation of caries; tends to prevent tooth decay. “On the other hand, cheese appears to have an antikary effect by preventing bacteria from using sugar to produce decay-improving acid on tooth surfaces.” – 21 August 1985

  • pettifoggery: methods that are petty, underhanded or dishonest; one given to suffocate over trifles. James Randi, an award-winning magician from MacArthur who turned his formidable expertise into investigating allegations of spoon-bending, mind-reading, fortune-telling, ghosting, whispering, water-dowsing, faith-healing, UFO-spotting and various varieties of bamboozlement, bunco, chicanery, flimflam, flimflam, flimflam , humbuggery, mountebankery, pettifoggery, and out-and-out quacksalvery, as he quite often aptly called them, died Tuesday at his home in Plantation, Fla. ”- October 21, 2020

  • fanion: a small flag originally used by horse brigades and now by soldiers and surveyors to mark positions. “A fanion fluttering in the wind marked the spot on the mountainside where the children were convinced that goblins lived below.”

  • clinquant: glittering with gold or glitter. “The guests at the gala, clinking in decorations and jewels for the theme ‘Shining Knight’, were mostly unhappy to hear that the dinner options were lamprey pie, cabbage or porridge.”

  • thooid: looks like a wolf; used by a wolf, dog or jackal separated from the foxes or alopecoid (like a fox) members of the genus Canis. “The puppy, despite his best efforts to project thooid authority, failed to scare the school bus as it drove past her window.”

  • 1930 fracas: a noisy quarrel. “At their headquarters, after the fracas, the Communists said they had taken three films of snapshots taken on the ground and from the upper floors of the building, which will show that the alleged brutality was manifested yesterday.” – May 19, 1929

  • 1935 understandable: able to be understood. “As a general thing, they can not give any understandable explanation for their behavior or tell what they have weapons against the government for.” – January 28, 1863

  • 1940 therapy: medical treatment of weakness, injury, illness or disorder. “Hypnotic Therapy Defense: Hypnosis, which has become unfavorable as a therapeutic technique, was defended as an experimental procedure by Dr. Cobb.” – December 29, 1938

  • 1946 semaphore: a device for visual signaling; a two-flag visual signaling system. “A few days ago, some American and British officers landed on Ponza to inspect its obsolete submarine cable and its dusty semaphore station.” – January 16, 1944

  • 1951 insouciant: blond concern. “Insouciant Wizard Sits in Death Chair: Crowd at Radio Fair Gasps as he defies power and an iron bar ‘melts in his mouth.'” – September 25, 1927

  • 1955 crustaceology: carcinology; a branch of zoology dealing with the crustacean. “Despite his entire study of crustacean research, the marine biologist was appalled to see hundreds of spider crabs, many with legs 10 meters long, and climbed towards the aquarium doors.”

  • 1964 sycophant: a servile, self-seeking flatterer. “He has no love for political sycophants and yes-men.” – 18 September 1964

  • 1970 croissant: a scaly, rich crescent-shaped roll. “The fast food croissant, brioche and puff pastry are largely soft, tasteless deceivers of venerable French pastries, but the apparent popularity here testifies to the seemingly insatiable world appetite for fast food.” – 27 August 1980

  • 1980 elucubrate: to train or express by studious effort. “Despite decades as a fan, he could not, to his own or anyone else’s satisfaction, shed light on his reasons for such devotion to the Philadelphia teams.”

  • 1995 xanthosis: yellow discoloration of the skin from abnormal causes. “The film’s protagonists realized that their friend might be in trouble when they saw his lemon-colored xanthosis, then by catching a graveyard smell and then by hearing about his appetite for brains.”

  • 2012 guetapens: ambush, snare. “Admiral Ackbar, who observed too late that the Rebel Alliance was in a deadly guetapens set by the empire, shouted the obvious: ‘It’s a trap!'”

  • 2014 stichomythia: dialogue especially about quarrel or dispute provided by two actors in alternating lines. “The rapid exchange of fire (stichomythia) between characters so stylized in most translations burns here with intense hostility, especially in the deadly verbal duel with Creon with his son Haemon.” – 5 December 2004

  • 2015 scherenschnitte: the art of cutting paper in decorative designs. “Call ahead to attend special weekend workshops in Pennsylvania German craft of scherenschnitte (paper cutting), quilling (coiled paper art), decorative egg scraping and open fireplace cooking.” – July 2, 2006


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