The 16th National Spelling Bee was held in Washington, D.C. on May 28, 1940. Scripps-Howard would not sponsor the Bee until 1941.
The winner was 14-year old girl Laurel Kuykendall, correctly spelling the word therapy. Elizabeth O'Keefe, a 13-year-old girl from New Jersey, took second place after failing to correctly spell "plantain", followed by Eleanor Shea of Nebraska in third.
There were 22 spellers this year, and the prizes were $500 for first, $200 for second, and $100 for third.