Webster Detector History

History of Webster Detector

In 2017, the National Spelling Bee (NSB) declared the online version of Merriam-Webster's Unabridged dictionary the "official" source for words given at the Bee—and many words have been added or changed. That same year, 22 words at the 2017 National Spelling Bee were not in the printed dictionary. One word had a different spelling. In response to Scripps National Spelling Bee's change to the online dictionary as the 'official source' for words, our team of word sherlocks devoted nearly a year to scouring for the most challenging 'changed or added' words in Merriam-Webster's online dictionary. Each word found was compared to the printed dictionary and ultimately judged by level of difficulty, newness or trickiness, and whether the word was significantly changed from the printed dictionary. Some words marked as revised simply had their definition changed or expanded; some words were simply compound words or word phrases with very elemental words. 

Compiled and edited by an anonymous team of gumshoe geeks, Webster Detector is specifically geared toward advanced spellers competing in the highest levels of spelling bees including the National Spelling Bee. Don't get stumped on a word you've never seen!

Other words that were new or changed and not in Webster Detector, included 'trendy' words like vloggingsudokuaquascapecosmeceutical, and Zumba. Additional fun words were ollienarratology, and nasicorn. Capitalized words from the online dictionary included DisneyesqueQuebecZimbabwean, and Gettysburg.

Remember, there is no such thing as a hard word—only a word you have never seen!

FAQ: Does this list include ALL of the words changed or added?

No, but these are some of the most challenging and interesting ones of those we found. The words in this list were thoughtfully weighed and selected from the perspective of a 35+ year academic publishing company and over 20 National Spelling Bee champs in a row have used our products. Additional volumes of Webster Detector may be released in the years to come.

Why we formed this list

After the last version of Webster's Third New International was printed in 1993, over 15,000 words were added or changed to create the Webster's online dictionary, and these words have never been in print or even provided in any comprehensive online list. For many years, these new additions did not affect students preparing for the National Spelling Bee because the NSB authority was the printed version of Webster's Dictionary. However, in 2017, the National Spelling Bee declared the online version of Merriam-Webster's dictionary the official version to be used by the Bee.

More about Changed Words

Unbeknownst to most, many 'other' changes have been made in the online dictionary such as the word carosela which showed up at the 2017 National Bee—it's spelled carosella in the printed version. This was not marked as a “NEW” word because the word actually existed in the printed version, but it was spelled differently in the printed Webster's Third with carosela originally having only one ‘l.’ Bloviator was also given in 2017, and it was added to the word bloviate, and this word was marked as “REVISED.”  With these words not on any provided list, many customers have struggled to find them—until now. Our word detectives are working diligently to uncover new words and changed words to give our spellers the most concise list possible to help prepare for advanced spelling competitions. We hope you enjoy this first edition.

The 2017 National Spelling Bee included words from the online dictionary that were not in the hard copy version appeared on spelling bee word lists. "Mochi," for example, appeared in several regional bees, despite not appearing in the printed version of Webster's Third.

Surprises at the 2017 NSB

Words at the 2017 National Spelling Bee that were not in the printed Webster's Third or were changed:

ROUND 1 – (Written Test) - bowyer

ROUND 2 – (from Regional List) - affogato, Euskara, fashionista, fibromyalgia, kvell, lassi, macchiato, mochi, parkour, ronin, Sicily

ROUND 3  Bloviator (bloviate in printed), webisode, shopaholic, edamame, McMansion, metadata

ROUND 5  carosella (carosela in printed), Bruneian

ROUND 6  bucatini

ROUND 8  clafouti

ROUND 12  arribada

Our Selection & Sleuthing Process (or "Can't I just find these online?")

While neologists and bloggers have unearthed a few of the changed words in the online dictionary, what is smattered on the web is not a sufficient number for intensive new word mastery. The advanced tool in the online dictionary helps but does not pick up all the words that are revised. Many of the words that were changed in Webster's online dictionary, are not marked as "New" or "Revised" since some of the changes are subtle, such as the way a word is pronounced and whether it was once an adjective but is now a noun. Currently, added or changed words are not in one place or on any list or drop-down menu on the company's website and many students are making their own collections. Some are actively searching for words, others are making a note when they happen to stumble across words that are added or changed. Webster Detector can help you 'round out' your search efforts and give you a fresh, comprehensive list to study along with important word information and easy-to-understand pronunciations.

Arranged in a randomized sequence to keep students on their toes (as they would need to be in a spelling bee), Webster Detector includes audio pronunciations and other dictionary information to help students close the gap of words or word variations that are not in the printed dictionary.

Online Spelling Platform


Get immediate access to our free samples with sign-up!

This one-of-a-kind spelling mastery software was engineered by Hexco and features an attractive and responsive online interface combined with state-of-the-art memory capabilities. Excellent for those who desire to learn a large number of words quickly and efficiently, Hexco's unique type-in-the-word online portal includes a drop-down feature that allows students to practice their missed words or "starred words" in order to perfect their spelling. How it works: An audio recording of each word is presented along with (a) phonetic pronunciation(s)definitionabbreviated etymology, and part(s) of speech. If you're stumped on a word, you can ask for the "next letter," or request "show word," and the program will automatically save these in your "missed words" so you can try these words again at a later time. Once a word is marked as "correct," other word information can appear, such as expanded etymology and homonyms. This technology, combined with Hexco's unique word lists used by countless National Spelling Bee participants, can catapult you to the top of your 'game' in any spelling competition.


  • Each Spelling eMentor saves missed words until all words are mastered.
  • It also saves results when you log in and log out and keeps track of your progress.
  • Audio, phonetic pronunciations, word origins, and definitions are included.
  • Select "All Words Ever Missed" to make sure you never miss those words again.
  • Perfect "All Words Missed on the Last Attempt" to master each list. (Note that this means your last attempt at the word.)
  • "Star" words that you want to study again. (Note that you can "unstar" words at any time.)
  • Ask for the next letter in a word.
  • Ask to show the whole word if you don't know how to spell a word.
  • Attempt all words in any set at any time to continue perfecting your spelling.
  • Type and click "enter" to quickly test yourself without depending on a mouse to move forward.


  • Each eMentor product is browser-based and tracks progress for one user.
  • All eMentors are accessible from any browser on a PC or Mac computer and mobile device.
  • This product is subscription-based and is good for one year from the date of your purchase.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get the latest updates on new products and upcoming sales

No thanks