14-Year-Old Indian-American Dev Shah of Florida Triumphs at Scripps National Spelling Bee with Final Word 'Psammophile'

Dev Shah, a talented 14-year-old Indian-American from Largo, Florida, emerged victorious at the highly anticipated 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee, after enduring 14 intense rounds and competing against 10 finalists.



6/5/20234 min read

Dev Shah (Pic: E. M. Pio Roda / Scripps National Spelling Bee)
Dev Shah (Pic: E. M. Pio Roda / Scripps National Spelling Bee)

Dev Shah, a talented Indian-American 14-year-old from Largo, Florida, emerged victorious at the highly anticipated 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee. After enduring 14 intense rounds and competing against 10 finalists, Dev's remarkable spelling skills earned him the coveted championship title. Demonstrating his exceptional knowledge of words, Dev sealed his triumph by correctly spelling the challenging 11-letter word 'psammophile,' securing a cash prize of $50,000. This triumph marks Dev's third appearance in the competition, with his dedication and relentless preparation paving the way for this unforgettable moment.

Spelling King 2023

Dev Shah's journey to triumph at the Scripps National Spelling Bee is a testament to his unwavering dedication and relentless pursuit of excellence. His passion for spelling began at a young age, and he started participating in spelling bees in the third grade. Despite previous placements of tied 76th in 2021 and 51st in 2019, Dev's determination to improve and succeed never wavered.

For the past year, Dev committed himself to rigorous study, dedicating an astounding 10 hours each day to mastering the intricacies of the English language. His hard work paid off as he outlasted 228 competitors, surpassing the preliminary, quarterfinal, and semifinal rounds to reach the finals. Displaying nerves of steel, Dev confidently spelled words like 'schistorrhachis,' 'aegagrus,' 'rommack,' and 'tolsester,' showcasing his profound understanding of complex vocabulary.

The tension reached its peak during the final moments of the competition when Dev faced his last word, 'psammophile.' Demonstrating his expertise, he calmly requested the word's information but smiled slightly, revealing his confidence. In a mere 45 seconds, Dev flawlessly spelled 'psammophile,' securing his position as the champion.

Dev's victory adds to the rich history of Indian-American success in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. As the 22nd champion of South Asian heritage in the past 24 years, Dev exemplifies the remarkable academic achievements of individuals from this community. The Indian-American presence and dominance in spelling bees have become a source of inspiration and pride for many.

Dev's triumph at the Scripps National Spelling Bee serves as an inspiration for young spellers worldwide, demonstrating the power of perseverance, hard work, and unwavering determination. Despite facing setbacks in previous competitions, Dev's resilience and commitment led him to his well-deserved victory.

In an interview following his win, Dev expressed gratitude for the support of his parents, teachers, and coach, who played integral roles in his journey. He acknowledged the nerves he experienced during the competition, highlighting the importance of maintaining composure under pressure.

Making of an Ace Speller

Dev Shah's triumph at the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee represents the culmination of years of hard work, dedication, and unwavering determination. His remarkable spelling skills, along with his composed demeanor and focused approach, set him apart from the competition. Dev's victory not only celebrates his personal accomplishment but also adds to the legacy of Indian-American excellence in spelling bees. As a role model for aspiring spellers, he reminds us that dreams can be realized through perseverance and a love for learning.

Historically Speaking

The Scripps National Spelling Bee, which originated in 1925, continues to captivate audiences and showcase the incredible talents of young spellers. The competition welcomes students up to the eighth grade and serves as a platform for participants to demonstrate their linguistic prowess. This year, 229 children took the stage, each having triumphed at the school level among a staggering 11 million participants.

The finalists showcased an impressive depth of knowledge as they tackled a challenging word list meticulously curated by Scripps' 21-person word panel. This distinguished panel, which includes five past champions, selects words that push the boundaries of spelling expertise. Even in the early stages of the finals, the contestants faced formidable words like "traik" (meaning "to fall ill" in Scotland), "carey" (referring to a small to medium-sized sea turtle), and "katuka" (a venomous snake found in Southeastern Asia).

Dev Shah, reflecting on the competition, acknowledged the difficulty of the words presented. He recognized the extensive realms of the dictionary that the word panelists had delved into, commending their selection process. The challenging words tested the spellers' knowledge and showcased their ability to tackle even the most intricate vocabulary.

As the competition progressed, the field narrowed down to four remaining contestants. Shradha Rachamreddy stumbled on the word "orle," a heraldry term describing a border formed by arranging small charges within the edge of a field. Unfortunately, she misspelled it as "orel." Similarly, Surya Kapu misspelled "kelep," a Central American stinging ant, as "quelep," leading to his elimination.

While some traditionalists may object to Scripps' inclusion of trademarks and geographical names in the competition, the organization maintains that as long as a word is not deemed archaic or obsolete, any entry in Merriam-Webster's Unabridged dictionary is fair game. This approach broadens the scope of the competition, allowing spellers to showcase their mastery of diverse word sources.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee continues to push the boundaries of spelling prowess and captivate audiences with its challenging word selection. Dev Shah's victory and the exceptional performances of all the finalists are a testament to their dedication, knowledge, and ability to navigate the intricate world of language. The competition serves as a celebration of linguistic aptitude and highlights the importance of continuous learning and exploration.

Dev Shah (Pic: E. M. Pio Roda / Scripps National Spelling Bee)
Dev Shah (Pic: E. M. Pio Roda / Scripps National Spelling Bee)