Every year, the nation’s best young spellers compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, wowing the rest of us mere mortals with their skills. And without fail, the winning words always leave us scratching our heads. In past years, we’ve seen champions spell out “marocain,” “bouquetiere,” and “Lyceum” without even breaking a sweat. And in the 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee finals on May 31st, a Texas middle-schooler took home the trophy with the word “koinonia.” Um, what?
Karthik Nemmani, a 14-year-old from the town of McKinney, Texas told Good Morning America that when he heard the final word, he immediately knew he could spell it. In a stroke of good luck (slash hard work), the teen had studied the word while preparing.
If you’ve never heard of koinonia, it’s okay—neither have we. It turns out the word has Greek roots and refers to “the Christian fellowship or body of believers,” according to Merriam Webster.
Nemmani faced a rival from his county, Naysa Modi, in the competition’s final rounds. Modi had defeated Nemmani in the Dallas-area Regional Spelling Bee. Ultimately, she placed second after misspelling the German word “Bewusstseinslage” (uhhh…we get it).
Watch how Nemmani doesn’t even skip a beat when given the obscure word.
This year’s spelling bee broke records with the largest number of competitors ever. To win, Nemmani beat out 515 other students between the ages of 8 and 15 — and we can imagine the competition was fierce.
Frankly, we’re in awe of all the incredible students who competed in this year’s national spelling bee, and we’re definitely feeling inspired to learn some new words. Congratulations to Nemmani and to all of the competitors in this year’s finals!