mid-15c., "action of reading letter by letter," verbal noun from spell (v.1). Meaning "manner of forming words with letters" is from 1660s; meaning "a way a word has been spelled" is from 1731. Spelling bee is from 1878 (see bee; earlier spelling match, 1845; the act of winning such a schoolroom contest is described in 1854 as to spell (someone) down.
updated on June 16, 2020
Dictionary entries near spelling