Test your smarts with these winning words.

By Liz Steelman
Updated May 24, 2016
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Do you have a knack for words? Do you approach spelling with meticulosity? Do you often get in a fracas with a fellow wordsmith about proper definitions? Well, luckily, this week is the ultimate in vocabulary deification: the 89th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee, which kicks off on Wednesday, May 25, 2016. To celebrate, we’ve rounded up some of the most interesting winning words from each decade of the competition—and put each of them in a (totally fictional) sentence.

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Pronunciation: al·bu·men

Origin: Late Latin

How to use it in a sentence: Betty Robinson, the 1928 champ, preferred her omelets to only contain the albumen.

Definition: The part of the inside of an egg that is clear before it is cooked and white after it is cooked: the white of an egg (Merriam-Webster).

Pronunciation: fou·lard

Origin: French

How to use it in a sentence: When Ward Randall won the bee in 1931, he wore a printed tie made of foulard.

Definition: A lightweight plain-woven or twilled silk usually decorated with a printed pattern (Merriam-Webster).

Pronunciation: sem·a·phore

Origin: Greek

How to use it in a sentence: John McKinney, who took home the 1946 trophy, knew not only morse code, but also picked up semaphore during his maritime travels.

Definition: A system used for sending signals by using two flags that are held in your hands (Merriam-Webster).

Pronunciation: in·sou·ci·ance

Origin: French

How to use it in a sentence: In 1951, Irving Belz was insouciant as he spelled his winning word—he knew he would win.

Definition: A relaxed and calm state: a feeling of not worrying about anything (Merriam-Webster).

Pronunciation: sy·co·phant

Origin: Latin

How to use it in a sentence: After becoming 1966 champion, Robert A. Wake’s classmate at school turned from a bully to a sycophant.

Definition: a person who praises powerful people in order to get their approval (Merriam-Webster).

Pronunciation: vouch·safe

Origin: Middle English

How to use it in a sentence: 1973-Winner Barrie Trinkle wasn’t willing to vouchsafe her spelling secrets in exchange for ice cream.

Definition: to give (something) to someone as a promise of a privilege (Merriam-Webster).

Pronunciation: mi·lieu

Origin: French

How to use in a sentence: Balu Natarajan’s 1985 success was helped in part by the studious milieu of his family.

Definition: the physical or social setting in which people live or in which something happens or develops (Merriam-Webster).

Pronunciation: an·te·di·lu·vi·an

Origin: Latin

How to use in a sentence: Though Ned G. Andrew’s laptop-toting peers thought his dictionary was antediluvian, he stuck to what worked for him and won the 1994 bee.

Definition: very old or old-fashioned (Merriam-Webster).

Pronunciation: pro·spi·cience

Origin: Latin

How to use in a sentence: Pratyush Buddiga had the prospicience that all his hard work would pay off when he became the 2002 spelling bee champ.

Definition: the act of looking forward (Merriam-Webster).

Pronunciation: guet·a·pens

Origin: French

How to use in a sentence: The judges thought the word would be a guetapens, but Snigdha Nandipati gracefully spelled it, and won the 2012 title.

Definition: ambush, snare or trap (Merriam-Webster).

On Wednesday, May 25th, the Scripps National Spelling Bee kicks off in National Harbor, Maryland, culminating in the finals on Thursday, May 26th. Follow along on ESPN, via Twitter at @ScrippsBee, and on spellingbee.com.