BASICS

— It's officially the "Scripps National Spelling Bee."

— Competition started with 273 spellers.

— Officials expect a winner sometime around 3 or 4 pm Eastern Thursday.

— The spelling bee was founded in 1925. Scripps took over in 1941.

THE RULES

— Students must be younger than 16, as of June 1.

— No one above eighth grade can compete.

— Competitors must win a local spelling bee.

— National champs are automatically retired.

— All words come from Webster's Third International Dictionary, 2002 and addenda.

— The bee starts with a 25-word written test. Then all rounds are oral.

WHEN SPELLING

— Spellers can ask for:

— Pronunciation

— Definition

— Use of the word in a sentence

— Language of origin

— Spellers can ask if a specific root is attached to the word, but they must define that root word and give language of origin. In other words, they can say, "is that from the French word 'pain' (pahn), meaning bread?"

— Spellers are asked to pronounce the word before spelling. Judges can correct them.

SPELLERS

— There are 273 this year.

— Ages: two spellers are 9-year-olds. Most (180) are 13 or 14.

— Gender: 146 boys, 127 girls.

— School: 173 spellers from public school, 63 private schools, 34 are home schooled.

— Repeats: four spellers are back for a fourth year at the bee. 13 are third-year competitors and 52 are back a second time.

— Sibling rivalry: 23 spellers have siblings who were at past spelling bees.

SOME WINNING WORDS

— "Gladiolus" was the first winning word, in 1925. It's a plant.

— "Foulard", 1931. (foo-LARD'). A type of fabric.

— "Promiscuous", 1937. Indiscriminate, especially sexually.

— "Vignette", 1951. A short scene or story.

— "Smaragdine", 1961. (smeh-RAG'-deen). Relating to emeralds.

— "Narcolepsy", 1976. A sleep disorder.

— "Antediluvian", 1994. Ancient, extremely old.

— "Pococurante", 2003. (POH'-koh-kur-AHN'-tay). Apathetic.

— "Autochthonous", 2004. (ah-TOK'-theh-nuhs). Indigenous.

Click here for a full list of winning words.

SPELLING "BEE"?

— Scripps itself admits the term "bee" is a language puzzle.

— The word "bee" has long been used for community gatherings like a "quilting bee."

— It dates back at least 240 years.

— Scholars once guessed bee was used because of the industrious nature of beehives.

— But more recently, researchers think its from an old English dialect in which "been" or "bean" means voluntary help for neighbors.