"Siriasis" has been given at least twice in the bee's history - once in 1989, and again this year (2014). I'm certain, though, that given how difficult this word is, the word panel has included it more than just these two years. In both cases, spellers were eliminated in exactly the same way.
Why is "siriasis" such a bugaboo? Four reasons:
- It's one of these words that you either know or you don't...and guessing the correct spelling is very difficult.
- It's a homonym to a more common word: "psoriasis."
- "Psoriasis" was the winning word in the 1982 National Spelling Bee, making it even more widely known among spellers.
- Both words are medical terms. In this case, "siriasis" is another term for sunstroke, while "psoriasis" is a skin disease.
It's probably no surprise that in 1989 and 2014, both spellers who received the word spelled it as if it were "psoriasis." And although rare, it is possible to see previous winning words at the national level; I've seen "eudaemonic," "smaragdine," and "esquamulose" appear here and there...but most interestingly, all three showed up at the 1987 NSB. (Random bee coincidence #2: these were consecutive winning words from 1960 to 1962.) Having said that, "psoriasis" is, again, a fairly common word. Although it is a good word to know, I'd be surprised if it found its way back to the national stage.
But not "siriasis." You'll see this word again in the years to come.