Past to present
Spellers have gotten better and words have gotten more difficult. The skills of modern day students have expanded. The contestants in competitions today are the “best of the best.” The words that they are asked to spell in The National Finals are very challenging to say the least!
This list demonstrates an overview of the increasing complexity of words throughout the decades:
1925 — gladiolus: a flowering plant in the iris family
1936 — eczema: a skin condition
1960 — eudaemonic: producing happiness
1967 — Chihuahua: a dog originating from the State of Mexico
1970 — croissant: a fancy bread
1978 — deification: the act of treating someone like a God
1987 — staphylococci: the plural form of a type of disease that causes bacteria
1998 — chiaroscurist: a painter who uses exaggerated light contrasts and shadows for artistic effect
2005 — appoggiatura: this is a word for an embellishing musical note
2011 — cymotrichous: this is a way to describe wavy hair
2015 — scherenschnitte; nunatak: this is the art of paper cutting
2016 — Feldenkrais; gesellschaft: a type of exercise therapy
2019 — auslaut; erysipelas; bougainvillea; aiguillette; pendeloque; palama; cernuous; odylic (ended in a tie between 8 participants)
If you are interested, the following is a complete list of all of the National Spelling Bee words annually from 1925 until the present: gladiolus, cerise, luxuriance, albumen, asceticism, fracas, foulard, knack, torsion, deterioration, intelligible, interning, promiscuous, sanitarium, canonical, therapy, initials, sacrilegious, semaphore, chlorophyll, psychiatry, dulcimer, meticulosity, insouciant, vignette, soubrette, transept, crustaceology, condominium, schappe, syllepsis, catamaran, eudaemonic, smaragdine, esquamulose, equipage, sycophant, eczema, ratoon, Chihuahua, abalone, interlocutory, croissant, shalloon, macerate, vouchsafe, hydrophyte, incisor, narcolepsy, cambist, deification, maculature, elucubrate, sacrophagus, psoriasis, Purim, luge, milieu, odontalgia, staphylococci, elegiacal, spoliator, fibranne, antipyretic, lyceum, kamikaze, antediluvian, xanthosis, vivisepulture, euonym, chiaroscurist, logorrhea, demarche, succedaneum, prospicience, pococurante, autochthonous, appoggiatura, Ursprache, serrefine, guerdon, Laodicean, stromuhr, cymotrichous, guetapens, knaidel, feuilleton; stichomyathia, scherenschnitte; nunatak, Feldenkrais, gesellschaft, marocain, koinonia, (auslaut;erysipelas; bougainvillea; aiguillette; pendeloque; palama; cernuous; odylic).
To be honest, I have never heard of most of these words; let alone be able to spell them.
What about you?