Dev Shah, a 14-year-old boy from Largo, Florida, won the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Nailing the word “psammophile,” meaning an organism that thrives in sandy soils, in the 15th round of the contest’s finals.
He edged out fellow eighth-grader Charlotte Walsh, 14, from Arlington, Virginia, who finished in second-place after she misspelled “daviely,” a Scottish-rooted word for listlessly, in the 14th round.
Shah, a student at Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School, had correctly, and swiftly, spelled “bathypitotmeter” in the 14th round, but under spelling bee rules needed to land one more word to be declared winner.
Shah, who was crowned champion in a hail of confetti before being joined on stage by his parents and other relatives, takes home $50,000 cash from E.W. Scripps Co (SSP.O), the bee’s sponsor, plus further monetary prizes and reference works from Encyclopedia Britannica and Merriam-Webster.
The Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary is the official dictionary of the competition.
Dev, whose hobbies include reading, tennis, playing the cello and solving math problems, tied for 51st place in the 2019 edition of the spelling bee, and tied for 76th place in 2021.
He was among 11 contestants, aged 11 to 14, who advanced to the finals of this year’s event after beating out a field of 220 other competitors participating in the three-day contest, held in National Harbor, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C.
This year’s total field comprised 94 girls, 134 boys and two spellers who identify as nonbinary. One competitor did not specify a gender.
The bee is televised live. The excitement is heightened by TV commentators who describe the action as contestants wrack their brains to come up with the correct spellings for often-obscure words.
Last year, Harini Logan, 14, from San Antonio, Texas, correctly spelled 22 words during a 90-second spell-off to claim the top prize. It was the first time a spell-off decided the prestigious competition, which began in 1925.
The 2022 show was broadcast on ION and Bounce, both networks owned by a Scripps subsidiary, after 27 years on the cable sports channel ESPN. ION will again carry this year’s finals.