By Tiana Putric
Spellebrities are kids who can spell words that most of us simply can’t: appoggiatura, cymotrichous, esquamulose, guetapens, and stichomythia. According to cognitive science professor Brenda Rapp, talented spellers can do this because “it’s possible that they have something extra” or that areas of their brains are “especially well-tuned.”
Last week super-spellers from across the United States competed in America‘s 91st Scripps National Spelling Bee and totally wowed television viewers and social media followers. The purse – $40,000 cash, a $2,500 U.S. savings bond, and lots of other goodies. Meet master spellers Jairam and Nihar, this year’s co-champions, and browse the names of past winners -some old, some new, many international – and see their winning words along with the definitions.
Perhaps baby’s first book should be a dictionary?Girls
Laurel Kuykendall: therapy: the treatment of physical or mental illnesses
Laurel is a poetic nature name with roots in Lauraceae, the fragrant and flowering laurel plant. In ancient times, wreaths and crowns symbolizing victory and distinction were hand woven from these green- and glossy-leaved plants. Laurel is a lovely take on the names Laura and Lauren and is also spelt Laurelle and Lorelle.
Mattie is a tomboyishly cute diminutive of the female names Madeline, Madison, Martha, Matilda, and Mattingly. Mattie, along with Mati and Matty, was very popular in the late 1800s and the 1900s and brings to mind other female names that are sweet-sounding and boyish: Andie, Billie, Bobbie, and Eddie.
Alma Roach: torsion: the twisting of something such as a piece of metal
Alma is a neglected vintage appellation that is thought to be derived from the Latin ‘almus’, meaning ‘nourishing’ and the Spanish ‘alma’, meaning soul. Alma is also the Crimean word for ‘apple’. Alma is a short, soulful, and simple name that calls forth the word ‘alms’ and the spirit of altruism. Alma has appeared on the U.S. Top 1000 every year since at least 1880.
Vanya Shivashankar: scherenschnitte: the art of cutting paper into decorative designs
Vanya, also spelt Vania and Vanja, is a pretty Slavic name meaning ‘gracious gift of God’ and is also a Sanskrit name meaning ‘ideal daughter’. In the US, Vanya is a much rarer female ‘V’ name than Vanessa, Veronica, Victoria, and Violet. Vanya also embraces the newly popular and trendy appellation Anya.
Other female winning names:
Ned Andrews: antediluvian: very old or old-fashioned
Ned is an English nickname name, a diminutive of the classic boy names Edgar, Edmund, Edward, and Edwin and is also for Benedict. A medieval name that dates back to the 14th century, with origins in the loving expression ‘mine Ed’ and then ‘my Ned’, Ned is rarer than other one-syllable names Jack, Max, Sam, and Will.
Jacques Bailly: elucubrate: to work out or express by studious effort
Jacques is an attractive French version of biblical baby names Jacob and James. Jacques which has not appeared on the U.S. Top 1000 since 1998. Note that male monikers with the letter ‘q’ in the centre, like Jacques and Marque, are really quite rare. Famous bearers include French explorers Jacques Cartier and Jacques Cousteau and composer Jacques Offenbach.
Irving Belz: insouciant: a relaxed and calm state
Irving is a first name and surname variation of Irvine originating from the River Irvine in Scotland. It means ‘green and fresh water’, making it a hidden nature name. Irving is a vintage male moniker with modern nicknames Vin and Ving and can also be spelt Erving. Irving shares its ‘ing’ ending with rare names Fleming and Manning and also with the newly popular Channing and the long-time popular Sterling.
Jairam Hathwar: Feldenkrais: used for a system of aided body movements intended to increase bodily awareness and ease tension
Jairam, pronounced ‘jay-rahm’, is a male Sanskrit moniker that is also spelled Jai Ram. An uncommon appellation that has never ranked on the U.S. Top 1000, an obvious nickname for Jairam is the popular Jay. Jairam joins other male names that embrace the ‘Jai’ prefix: Jaice, Jaiden, Jaime, Jairo, and Jaison.
Nihar Janga: gesellschaft: a rationally developed mechanistic type of social relationship characterized by impersonally contracted associations between persons
Nihar, pronounced ‘nee-har’, is a Sanskrit appellation for boys and a secret nature name meaning ‘mist’ or ‘dew’. Only 13 U.S. boys were given the name Nihar in 2015, making it a very rare moniker in this country. Nihar joins other two-syllable male monikers ending in ‘har’ such as Ashar, Zahar, and Zohar.
Balu Nutarajan: milieu: the physical or social setting in which people live or in which something happens or develops
Balu, also spelt Balue, is a lively male appellation that means ‘young one’ or ‘lucky one’ in Sanskrit. Balu is a place name, the Balu River in Bangladesh, and would be a new and interesting take on the colour name Blue–though it could be confused with Baloo the bear in The Jungle Book..
Other boy winning names:
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