Digging Up Roots + Starting Your Word Over

Good afternoon busy bees!

I hope everyone has had a great week since we last spoke. Were the competition etiquette tips useful? Has anyone watched Akeelah and the Bee since last week?

Today, we will talk about the importance of roots words and language of origin, as well as what to do if you want to restart spelling a word during competition. Hopefully, both of these topics will prove useful to our competitors.

Root Words and Language of Origin

Let's begin with root words and language of origin. What do those terms mean?

A root word is "a word or word part that forms the basis of new words through the addition of prefixes and suffixes". Here are some example words:

  • Acting - Root word "act" + suffix "ing"

  • Unbelievable - Prefix "un" + root word "believe" + suffix "able"

  • Prepay - Prefix "pre" + root word "pay"

If you're confused about what a "prefix" or a "suffix" is, we've got you covered.

A prefix is an affix placed before the root word, and provides additional information about the word's meaning. A prefix like "un", "dis", or "non" tell us the word probably means the opposite of the root word ("Commited" vs. "Uncommited").

A suffix is an affix placed after the root word. Often, a suffix will change a root word from one part of speech into another. For example, "believe", a verb, can become an adjective if we add the suffix '-able'. The adjective "quick" can become an adverb by adding '-ly'.

Next week, we'll introduce you to some of the most common prefixes and suffixes.

"Language of origin" refers to where a word originally came from. According to FiveThirtyEight, "about 54 percent of the [Scripp's national] bee’s words came from Latin, Middle English, French or New Latin". Over time, these words that were originally Latin, French, Greek, etc. changed and evolved into words we use regularly in English. For example, even the word "example" originally comes from Latin!

So, why are these things important for a competitor? Chances are, competitors will encounter words at the bee that they have never heard before, but by knowing and studying your root words and knowing the rules for spelling in origin languages, competitors can make an educated guess on how the word is spelled.

Here is a video example of how this is done at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. What do you think about this strategy?

Here are some additional resources to help you study roots and origin languages:

Starting a Word Over

It's competition day. You approach the podium for your 5th word, and halfway through spelling it…. you lose your train of thought. What's the next letter? Where did I leave off? Is it time to panic?


During the spelling bee, competitors are able to restart their word if they must. But could this lead to disqualification? When is it okay to do this?

Below, we've created a short video explaining this rule. Please take a few minutes to watch!

Finally, for those who have yet to register, we continue to encourage you, your friends and classmates to do so soon! The 3rd/4th grade, as well as 5th/6th grade, competitions are filling up quickly. We're looking for more competitors to fill our 7th/8th grade competition. If you know someone at your school, in your neighborhood or in your after-school activities, who might be interested, consider inviting them to join the competition! You can find the link to register here.

Next week, we'll go into more depth on suffixes and prefixes.

Is there something else you'd like to see included in an upcoming blogpost? If so, we have created a Google Form that anyone can fill out with suggestions or questions! Please feel free to send us a request for anything you'd like to see in an upcoming newsletter here!

Until next time!