There are no religion requirements for the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee, but many Christians would have recognized the word that won the event for 14-year-old Karthik Nemmani.

The ancient Greek word “Koinonia,” meaning fellowship or community, can be found in the names of churches, organizations, coffee shops and summer camps.

Other words late in the spelling competition were perduellion, fourrier, millefleurs, paucispiral, ascyphous, Clausewitz, aalii and bewusstseinslage.


“It’s the word behind verses such as Acts 2:45, where the early church ‘devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship,’ and Philippians 1:5, when Paul prays with joy of ‘partnership in the gospel,'” Christianity Today said.

The publication also noted the late evangelical scholar John Stott explained it comes from the adjective koinos, which means “common.”

“Koinonia bears witness to what we have in common and what we share as Christian men and women and young people,” Stott said. “It bears witness to two complementary truths. First, koinonia expresses what we share in together, what we have received together, what we participate in together. That is the grace of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. So the apostle John, at the beginning of his first letter, says, ‘Our fellowship [koinonia] is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ’… But koinonia also bears witness to what we share outward together – not only what we receive together, but what we give together. Koinonia is the word that Paul uses of the collection that he was organizing from the Greek churches for the benefit of the poverty-stricken churches in Judea. And koinonikos, the adjective, means ‘generous.'”

It’s seen in the late Chuck Missler’s Koinonia House, the Koinonia Institute, an online Bible institute, a post-prison ministry and even a youth rock band.

Nemmani became the 91st champion of the spelling contest.

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“I had confidence, but I didn’t really think it would happen. I’m just really happy. This has just been a dream come true,” he said.

The champion wins some $42,000 in cash and prizes.

Forty-one spellers advanced to the finals out of a field of 516.

The Atlanta Constitution Journal said the word has “an important connection to Georgia and Habitat for Humanity.”

“The word is also the name of Koinonia Farm, a community farm situated just outside of Americus in southwest Georgia. It was at Koinonia that the idea for Habitat for Humanity home-building organization first germinated in the mid-1970s,” the report said.

It embraces the concepts of community, communion, joint participation and sharing. It can refer to a jointly contributed gift. In the New American Standard Bible it’s translated as “fellowship” 12 times, “sharing” three times, and “participation” and “contribution” twice each.

“Koinonia is also the title of a song used in many Christian churches (and probably quite a few Vacation Bible Schools),” the report said.

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