"Koinonia," a Greek word meaning Christian fellowship or communion that appears a number of times in the Bible, put 14-year-old Karthik Nemmani of McKinney, Texas, over the top at the 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday night.
Nemmani's win came after fellow Texan, 12-year-old Naysa Modi, was unable to correctly spell bewusstseinslage, a German word meaning "a state of consciousness or a feeling devoid of sensory components," according to Merriam-Webster. She was participating in her fourth consecutive national spelling bee.
Third place contestant, Abhijay Kodali, is also from Texas.
"I had confidence, but I didn't think it would really happen," Nemmani was quoted as saying by The Dallas Morning News, of his win.
The three finalists dispatched such words as "pareidolia," "miarolitic" and "Mnemosyne" on their way up the ladder at the annual event, held at Oxon Hill, Md., and broadcast by ESPN.
Nemmani out-spelled a record 515 contestants on his way to the Scripps Bee trophy. That compares to 291 spellers at last year's competition.
Contestants fielded such words as "glossodynia," which could result (literally) from becoming tongue-tied, and "triturate" – meaning "to chew or grind."
"It's really, really scary, but at the same time, I feel really lucky that I get to go up there in the first place," Modi, a seventh-grader from Reynolds Middle School in Prosper, Texas, said.
"She's a really, really good speller. She deserved the trophy as much as I did," Nemmani told The Associated Press.
"I got lucky," he said, acknowledging that there were eight or nine words during the final rounds that he didn't know.
Nemmani actually lost at the county level, which in past years meant automatic elimination from the national competition. This year, however, he made it in through a new, second-chance rule known as "RSVBee."
In addition to the trophy, Nemmani will receive $25,000 in cash, trips to New York and Hollywood as part of a spelling bee media tour, a pizza party for his classmates at Scoggins Middle School and a complete Merriam-Webster reference library.