Meet Arvind, The 13-Year-Old Spelling Bee Champion

Arvind Mahankali, a Queens native, has won the 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee, after correctly spelling his final word, “knaidel.”

Cliff Owen / AP

Arvind Mahankali spells his word during the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md., Thursday, May 30, 2013.

Arvind Mahankali takes home a $30,000 prize, a $2,500 U.S. savings bond from Merriam-Webster, $2,000 worth of reference works from Encyclopedia Britannica, and a huge trophy. Plus the respect of spelling enthusiasts everywhere. Tonight’s 11 finalists advanced from 281 competitors based on a combination of onstage performance and computerized spelling and vocabulary tests. For the first time, competitors in the preliminary rounds had to know the definitions of words they spelled.

Cliff Owen / AP

Arvind Mahankali and Pranav Sivakumar, 13, after learning that they will advance to the semifinal round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, in Oxon Hill, Md., Wednesday, May 29, 2013.

A dedicated speller, Arvind Mahankali finished in third place the past two years and in ninth place in 2010.


Arvind Mahankali thinks during the championship round at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, May 30, 2013 in National Harbor, Maryland.

After second-place finisher Pranav Sivakumar incorrectly spelled “cyanophycean”, a type of blue-green alga, Mahankali had to spell two words correctly. He successfully spelled “tokonoma,” which is a Japanese word meaning a niche in a house, before spelling “knaidel,” which is a German word for a dumpling. In the past, Mahankali has struggled with German words.

8. In 2011, Mahankali incorrectly spelled the word “jugendstil” during the finals.


Arvind Mahankali, when he was 11 years old, reacts after he spells a word in the semifinals of the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Arvind: "A German curse has turned into a German blessing." #spellingbee #champion

— ScrippsBee (@NationalSpellingBee)

Confetti makes it official! Arvind is the #spellingbee champion!

— ScrippsBee (@NationalSpellingBee)

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Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a reporter and night editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Hawaii.
Contact Michelle Broder Van Dyke at
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