The winning word meant "ambush, snare or trap," but Snigdha Nandipati of San Diego didn't fall for it.
G-U-E-T-A-P-E-N-S, she spelled, correctly, nailing the word with the French derivation.
"It's a miracle," she said after her spelling of "guetapens" clinched victory in the 85 th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md., this evening.
Nandipati, who'd been to the spelling bee once before, defeated a total of 278 contestants.
"I knew it. I had seen it before. I just wanted to ask everything I could before I started spelling," Nandipati said.
Jordan Hoffman from Kansas City was the first finalist eliminated - for misspelling "canities."
In the 10 th round, Arvind Mahankali grabbed third place after incorrectly spelling "schwannoma."
That left Stuti Mishra of Orlando, Fla., to go head-to-head with Nandipati. Mishra misspelled the word "schwarmerei."
Out of 11 million kids from across the globe, nine competed in the finals round. Those nine included Frank Cahill, Emma Ciereszynski, Lena Greenberg, Hoffman, Mahankali, Mishra, Nandipati, Nicholas Rushlow, and Gifton Wright from Jamaica.
All participants in the finals round were 14 years old, except for Mahankali, who was 12.
This year's spelling bee also brought the youngest contestant in history, 6-year-old Lori Anne Madison of Lake Ridge, Va.
Madison fell four points short of making the semifinals and told the Washington Post that stress and fatigue led to her misspelling onstage.
"I was really disappointed that I misspelled the word. I knew the word," Madison told The Washington Post. "It was just too bad that I misspelled the word."
According to ESPN, some contestants spend up to 600 hours studying for the bee.
For Nicholas Rushlow, who was eliminated in the ninth round after competing for the past five years, just seeing supporters made all the work worthwhile.
"I know there are a lot of friends out there watching me," Rushlow said. "I just want to say thanks y'all."