Lifelines and Spelling Bee

Questions you can ask in a spelling bee competition

The term “Lifeline” is not alien to us, and we couldn’t term the clues contestants are entitled to in a spelling bee competition, any better. It varies from one competition to another, here we shall look at the rules of the famous Scripps National Spelling Bee.

There are 6 questions that a speller can ask the pronouncer. 6 useful hints that will get you close to deciphering the spelling of the word. However, mostly 3-4 clues get the job done.

These lifelines come in handy when you have to make guesses. And if you have prepared well, you’ll be in a position to make an informed guess with the help of these lifelines.

Definition of the word

Asking for the definition allows you to understand the word better as it gives you insight into what the language of origin or the root word could be. For example:  Acro is a root word derived from Greek. It means - Top or height. You would be in a better position to spell the word acrophobia if you knew the root word.

Part of speech

Parts of speech such as Noun, Verb, Adjectives etc. have certain spelling rules. Knowing these rules will help you narrow down the right spelling. For example: Words that end with Sy and Se are usually verbs.

Usage in a sentence

You can ask for the word to be used in a sentence, this will help you find out under what context is the word used.

Language of origin

The language of origin is perhaps the most critical clue that you get. As you know words that has its roots from a language has its own behavior and patterns. The order of letter or pronunciation is greatly influenced by the language. For example - Z is rarely used in Latin and words with Greek origin spell ph as F. There are other languages which has these set of rules. Hence in your preparation, language of origin is of supreme importance as it’s the key to making informed guesses or being doubly sure of your answers.

Alternate pronunciation

As the title suggests, this gives you more understanding of the word. Although majority of the words do not have an alternate pronunciation.

Specified Root

The speller can ask if the dictionary says there is a root word, however the speller would have to furnish the spelling, definition and it’s language to get this information. This is however is a rare instance, as this would take up a lot of time.

To sum it up, you have these clues that can help you answer more accurately when you are in a spelling bee competition. However, to make use of these you need to be really prepared. Also, you could always ask all the information to be shared at once, however this will eat into your time and may leave you with little or no time to give your answer.

All the best, may your spellings fall in place!


Arjun Valiyaparambil

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