Dept. of Word Lists

Nicholas Rushlow's Favorite Words (and a Killer Spelling Bee)

Yesterday we talked to sixth-grader Nicholas Rushlow, who finished 17th in the 2009 Scripps National Spelling Bee. At his home in Pickerington, Ohio, Nicholas maintains an impressive "word wall," festooned with many of the fascinating words he has learned while practicing for spelling bees. We asked Nicholas to share some of his favorites. And he has also created a Community Spelling Bee for us with even more "killer" words!


Sis·y·phe·an, adj.    |sisə|fēən

  1. of or relating to Sisyphus
  2. both extremely effortful and futile
  • Etymology: Latin sisypheius, sisyphius sisyphean (from Greek sisypheios, sisyphios, from Sisyphos Sisyphus, in Greco-Roman mythology the cruel king of Corinth whose punishment in Hades was to roll up a hill a heavy stone that constantly rolled down again) + English -an

Brob·ding·nag·ian, adj.  |bräbdiŋ|nagēən

  1. huge; relating to or characteristic of the imaginary country of Brobdingnag
  2. unusually great in size or amount or degree or especially extent or scope
  • Etymology: Brobdingnag, imaginary country inhabited by giants in Gulliver's Travels, by Jonathan Swift died 1745 English satirist + English -ian

glogg, n.  'glʊg, 'gləg

Scandinavian punch made of claret and aquavit with spices and raisins and orange peel and sugar

  • Etymology: Swedish glögg, from glödga to burn, mull, from Old Swedish, from glödhoger, adjective, glowing, from glöth ember, glowing coal; akin to Old English glēd ember, glowing coal

flib·ber·ti·gib·bet, n.  |flibə(r)dē|jibət

a light-minded or silly restless person; especially : a pert young woman with such qualities

  • Etymology: alteration of Middle English flepergebet, flypyrgebet

goo·san·der, n.  gü'sandə(r)

common merganser of Europe and North America

  • Etymology: alteration of earlier gossander, probably from gos- (as in gosling) + bergander

cwm, n.  'küm

a steep-walled semicircular basin in a mountain; may contain a lake

  • Etymology: Welsh, valley; akin to Greek kymbē drinking cup

chthon·ic, adj. 'thänik

of the underworld

  • Etymology: chthonic from Greek chthon- earth + English -ic

neb·bish, n.  'nebish

(Yiddish) a timid unfortunate simpleton

  • Etymology: Yiddish nebech poor thing (used interjectionally), of Slavic origin; akin to Czech nebohý wretched, Polish nieboe poor creature

pae·an, n. 'pēən

  1. (ancient Greece) a hymn of praise (especially one sung in ancient Greece to invoke or thank a deity)
  2. a formal expression of praise
  • Etymology: Latin paean, hymn of thanksgiving especially addressed to Apollo, from Greek paian, from Paian, epithet by which Apollo was invoked in the hymn

zeug·ma, n. 'zügmə

use of a word to govern two or more words though appropriate to only one ("`Mr. Pickwick took his hat and his leave' is an example of zeugma")

  • Etymology: Latin zeugmat-, zeugma, from Greek, literally, juncture, joining, from zeugnynai to yoke, join

pan·jan·drum, n. pan'jandrəm

an important or influential (and often overbearing) person

  • Etymology: from Grand Panjandrum, burlesque title of an imaginary personage in some nonsense lines by Samuel Foote died 1777 English actor and playwright

pog·o·nip, n. 'pägəˌnip

a dense winter fog containing ice particles

  • Etymology: Southern Paiute, from pagina- cloud, fog + -pi, n. suffix

ro·co·co, n./adj.: rə'kōkō

  1. n. fanciful but graceful asymmetric ornamentation in art and architecture that originated in France in the 18th century
  2. adj. having excessive asymmetrical ornamentation ("An exquisite gilded rococo mirror")
  • Etymology: French, irregular from rocaille; from the prevalence of rocaille ornamentation in 18th century France

jack·a·napes, n. 'jakəˌnāps

someone who is unimportant but cheeky and presumptuous

  • Etymology: Middle English Jack Napis, Jac Napes, nickname for William de la Pole died 1450 4th earl and 1st duke of Suffolk

Now try your hand at spelling these words and many other head-scratchers in Nick's Killer Spelling Bee!

Rate this article:

Click here to read more articles from Department of Word Lists.

Join the conversation

Comments from our users:

Saturday October 17th 2009, 4:55 PM
Comment by: george D. (Winnetka, IL)
a lot of fun
Thursday May 19th 2011, 8:02 PM
Comment by: anna S. (South Africa)Top 10 Commenter
I took it on Visual Thesaurus, but I did not have an account. I decided to comment on here. This was a very fun quiz, Nicholas! Good luck at the National Spelling Bee! I do not believe you are a four-timer this year. If you meet a speller from Salt Lake City, say that a speller says "hi" to her! I even read your article, and you are one of those spellers who really encourages me. Hopefully you will win this year or next year. There has only been one five-time speller (Kerry Close) who won nationals, but there haven't been any five-timers since 2008 (Matthew Evans and my friend, Tia Thomas). You can do it!

Do you have a comment?

Share it with the Visual Thesaurus community.

Your comments:

Sign in to post a comment!

We're sorry, you must be a subscriber to comment.

Click here to subscribe today.

Already a subscriber? Click here to login.

Nicholas tells us what it takes to be a nationally ranked speller.
Learn more about how to design customized spelling bees from your own word lists.