How much money the winner of the Scripps National Spelling Bee earns

Students fill the stage during the second round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee May 28, 2019 in National Harbor, Maryland.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Update 5/31/19: In an unprecedented turn of events, there were eight co-champions in this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday, May 30. Each winner will receive a $50,000 cash prize and an engraved trophy.


This story originally published Wednesday, May 29.

The ability to spell "koinonia" on demand is worth more than just bragging rights for the competitors of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Koinonia, which appears in the Bible and can loosely be defined as "spiritual community," was last year's winning word, earning then-14-year-old Karthik Nemmani of McKinney, Texas, $40,000. Whoever wins this year's competition, which began on Monday, May 27 in Washington, DC, will also head home with $40,000 in cash, as well as an engraved trophy, a $2,500 U.S. savings bond and some new reference books.

If there are two winners, each will receive $40,000. The 2014, 2015 and 2016 bees ended in ties, according to the Associated Press; however, it's been a relatively rare occurrence throughout the competition's history.

All 562 competitors will receive a Kindle and some reference books, and many will take home at least some cash. Here's how the the top six finishers fare:

First place: $40,000 + a $2,500 savings bond
Second place: $30,000
Third place: $20,000
Fourth place: $10,000
Fifth place: $5,000
Sixth place: $2,500

Everyone eliminated in rounds four through six will receive a $500 gift card, and those who misspell a word in round seven through seventh place will get $2,000. Last year, just 18 spellers made it past round seven.

Spelling is a big business

Past victors have used their winnings to fund a 529 or launch spelling-related businesses.

Prepping for the competition itself can be expensive. Parents can pay as much as $200 per hour for tutoring from "retired" spellers to give their kids a competitive edge and spend hundreds more on prep materials. Cole Shafer-Ray, the 2015 runner-up, told that he charges $100 per hour to tutor students via his website, The Spelling Champ, and sells a curated list of 1,200 words to practice for $35 a pop.

Almost 300 spellers paid $1,500 each to compete in the national spelling bee this year, in addition to the costs of travel and lodging. Before 2018, competitors had to win a regional bee to make it to the national competition. Now, they can pay to play through the "RSVBee" program.

The 92nd Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee finals will air on Thursday, May 30, live on ESPN.

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