Florida teenager Dev Shah wins US Spelling Bee with ‘psammophile’

Spelling bee champion Dev Shah   (AP)
Spelling bee champion Dev Shah (AP)

A teenager from Florida has been crowned the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee champion after he spelled the word “psammophile” correctly.

Dev Shah, 14, said his “legs were still shaking” after the “surreal” experience of winning the 95th national bee and taking home the $50,000 (£40,000) prize.

He said his mother was “very proud” of him as he held the trophy aloft at the prestigious competition in Harbor, Maryland.

Dev, the son of Indian immigrants in the US, edged out fellow eighth-grader Charlotte Walsh, also 14, who finished in second place after she misspelled “daviely” as “daevilick”.

Eleven students, aged between 11 and 14, competed in the finals after beating 220 other participants in a three-day contest.

Dev first competed unsuccessfully at the national bee in 2019 and 2021, finishing 51st and 67th respectively.

His winning word, “psammophile”, means an organism that lives in sandy areas.

“Psammo meaning sand, Greek?” he asked. “Phile, meaning love, Greek?”

He then asked for the word to be used in a sentence, a stalling tactic used by competitors, and put his hands over his face as he was declared the winner.

“I would say I was confident on the outside but inside I was nervous, especially for my winning word – well, like, before. Not during,” he told the Associated Press.

Dev spelled the words “schistorrhachis”, “aegagrus”, “rommack” and “tolsester” in the final round on Thursday.

He is the 22nd champion with south Asian heritage in the past 24 years. His father Deval Shah is a software engineer from India who migrated to the US 29 years ago to get his master’s degree in electrical engineering.

His mother Nilam Shah said he lost about 15 pounds as he added an exercise routine to help sharpen his focus for the contest.