Winning Spelling Bee Word Is One Every Christian Should Know

Karthik Nemmani celebrates with E.W. Scripps Company CEO Adam Symson after winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Karthik Nemmani celebrates with E.W. Scripps Company CEO Adam Symson after winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee. (REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)
We do it every Sunday and sometimes on Wednesday night for Bible study: koinonia.

It is a word that is defined as "Christian fellowship or communion, with God or, more commonly, with fellow Christians," and for one 14-year-old, it was the spelling word that won him the biggest Scripps National Spelling Bee in history.

Karthik Nemmani never expected to win the spelling bee. As one of the participants who entered into the competition by the new wild-card program, he was up against a tough field.

"I didn't really think I'd be able to do it," he said. "I had confidence that I could do it, but I honestly didn't realistically think it could happen."

There were 515 spellers this year, about 200 more than in previous years, and with the launch of the "RSVBee" wild-card program, local level newcomers faced some of the nation's best.

In the past, those who lost on the local level were ineligible to compete at the national competition, but that all changed with the "RSVBee."

Karthik's toughest competitor, 12-year-old Naysa Modi, was expected to win the entire competition. Karthik faced Naysa before in the Collin County, Texas bee and lost, but he had another shot Thursday night.

Naysa had to spell "bewusstseinslage," but mixed up the single and double "s" in the German-derived word.

"She's a really, really good speller. She deserved the trophy as much as I did," Karthik said of Naysa. "I got lucky."

Karthik admits he did not know how to spell about eight or nine words that came up during the prime-time finals, but he did know "koinonia."

It's a Greek word that appears 19 times in the New Testament. It is first used in Acts 2:42-47 where it talks about the believers coming together every day in unity.

"The spirit of koinonia was expressed most perfectly in the 'breaking of bread' (Acts 2:42), the communal celebration of the Lord''s Supper," reads an article on the term on

"It remains true today that real Christian fellowship stems from our fellowship with God," it continues. "Our shared fellowship with God has many dimensions, each of which serves as a basis of koinonia."

The soft-spoken boy spelled the term correctly and was showered with confetti and given more than $42,000 in cash and prizes.

Karthik is the 14th consecutive Indian-American competition champion.

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