A 14-year-old daughter of Indian immigrants has won the 85th Scripps National Spelling Bee by correctly spelling an obscure French word for ambush, snare or trap.
"G-U-E-T-A-P-E-N-S," said Snighda Nandipati, an eighth-grade student from San Diego, California, becoming the fifth American youngster of south Asian origin to win the venerable competition in as many consecutive years.
"I knew it. I'd seen it before," Nandipati, the daughter of a software consultant, confided afterwards on Thursday as she collected the spelling bee's coveted gold cup and $US30,000 ($A31,000), which she plans to put aside for university.
As for what it's like to win, after going head-to-head for three rounds with runner-up Stuti Mishra, also 14, of Orlando, Florida, Nandipati - sporting glasses and orthodontic braces - simply replied: "It's a miracle."
Third place went to Arvind V Mahankali, 12, a New Yorker who was thrown by a word he'd never heard before - schvonoma, a form of nerve tumour. He vowed to study harder and return next year.
Some 278 youngsters took part in this year's three-day National Spelling Bee at a resort outside Washington, out of more than 11 million who competed in events in the United States and several countries overseas.
This year featured the youngest-ever competitor, six-year-old Lori Anne Madison, of Woodbridge, Virginia, who was eliminated on Wednesday when she misspelled ingluvies, a noun that means the crop or craw of birds.
"I knew the word. It was just too bad that I misspelled the word," the precocious blonde crowd-pleaser - one of 28 home-schooled contestants this year - told reporters earlier in the day.
Sponsored by the Scripps media group, this year's National Spelling Bee included competitors from as far afield as the Bahamas, Canada, Ghana, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
Nandipathi, an aspiring neurosurgeon, said she studied six hours every weekday - and 10 to 12 hours on Saturdays and Sundays - for the chance to make the finals.
The schoolgirl's father developed a computer program for her that included 40,000 virtual flashcards and a knowledge-testing function.
Her parents immigrated to the United States in 1995 from the southeastern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, her mother Madhavi Nandipati said.
Photo: Snigdha Nandipati (Getty Images)