After three near-victories over the past four years, Arvind V. Mahankali won the 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday. The word he spelled correctly to take the title: “knaidel.”
The unusual word, thanks to its prominent role in the nationwide competition—which this year hosted 281 contestants in National Harbor, Md.—instantly rose to the esteemed ranks of other head-scratchers, including “guetapens” and “cymotrichous,” the previous two words to catapult contestants to fame. But what, exactly, does "knaidel" mean? And could it also be spelled “kneidel”? Or is it “kneydl”?
According to the bee’s official pronouncer, Jacques Bailly, a knaidel is “a small mass of leavened dough cooked by boiling water or steaming as with soup.” It has its word origin in German-derived Yiddish.