The first words have been spelled onstage at the 87th Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Youngsters approached the microphone and tackled words such as "protege," ''verboten" and "pneumatic" during the preliminary rounds Wednesday morning in Maryland.

Each of the 281 spellers gets to earn points by spelling two words onstage. Their scores will be combined with a computerized spelling and vocabulary test to determine who will advance to the semifinals Thursday.

The finals are set for Thursday night.

The winner gets more than $33,000 in cash and prizes.