Studying for spelling bees can seem daunting at first. With an ever increasing dictionary and hundreds of thousands of words it seems like a Sisyphean task. However, with proper preparation, getting ready for spelling bees isn’t as mysterious.
As with almost everything else, building up a solid foundation is paramount to becoming a great speller. While it might be really fun to go through all the Geographical and miscellaneous words scattered through out the dictionary those only really come up in the Finals round of the National Spelling Bee.
A vast majority of the words at the school, county, and regional spelling levels are from a list known as the Consolidated Word List (due to copyright reasons I can’t link to it but it is fairly easy to find a PDF.) This list has about 23000 words and ranges from Frequent, Moderate, and to Infrequent. The words tend to increase in difficulty in the respective order.
I would definitely recommend getting a subscription to Merriam Webster Unabridged as it is the official dictionary and has all of the words that Scripps may possibly ask. It’s got an advanced search which is great for compiling lists on your own. Here’s how the advanced search looks.
Main Entry: Just the word itself or any other alternate spelling
Definition: You can enter a word and then any entries that contain this word in the definition will show up.
Function: Is this word a noun? Is this word an adjective? Etc.
Date: Do you have a hankering for words that were first used on 1856? Enter an year to find out words coined this year.
Subject: Trying to learn some legalese? Select a topic to get an assortment of words related to that topic. Ranging from Fungi to Youth Activities.
Etymology: Kind of straight forward, enter a language to get words from that language. You can also enter words and roots if you know the original spelling of them. This is probably my favorite function.
Usage: Need some slang words? (Not sure why you’re going to Unabridged for them but-) Enter slang or other qualifying terms for Usage like “archaic.”
Examples: If you want to know how a word is used in sentences, enter a word and you’ll get numerous entries that are not necessarily related to the original word.
Author Quoted: Need some sentences from Rowling? Enter her last name (or any other author’s) and you’ll see entries whose example sentences are from that author.
Synonym Paragraph: Wondering what the difference between irate, indignant, wrathful, wroth, acrimonious is? Enter one of them and you’ll find the synonym discussion at the bottom of the entry.
Cryptogram: Have you found a secret coded message and you want to decode it? Enter it in and Merriam Webster will somehow decode. I’m not too sure how it words but it works.
Anagram: Playing some Scrabble and you have no idea what word you can make with your motley of letters? Enter those letter and it’ll unscramble them for you.