The 81st Scripps National Spelling Bee finals took place on May 30, 2008.
Two hundred eighty-eight champion spellers competed in the 2008 Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., a new record. Most of the spellers were from the United States, with a small showing from other locations such as Ghana, Jamaica, New Zealand, and South Korea. Twenty-two were Canadian. Wikipedian Emily Temple-Wood was one of the competitors. Sriram Hathwar, who would be a co-winner of the 2014 bee six years later, set a new record as the youngest ever participant to date, only a month past his 8th birthday.
The winner was Sameer Mishra, a 13-year-old eighth grader at West Lafayette Junior-Senior High School, in Indiana. He was sponsored by his hometown newspaper, the Journal & Courier. His winning word was guerdon. He won $35,000 in cash and more than $5,000 in prizes.
In rounds 3 through 15, Mishra spelled "demitasse", "quadrat", "diener", "hyssop", "macédoine", "basenji", "numnah", "chorion", "nacarat", "sinicize", "hyphaeresis", "taleggio" and "esclandre" correctly, in that order.
In a comical moment during the spelling bee, he mistook the word "numnah" for "numb nut".
Mishra incorrectly spelled "sudation" in Round 2 as "sudatian." However, because a speller's combined score from Rounds 1 and 2 determines whether he or she advances in the competition, a speller can incorrectly spell a word in Round 2 without being eliminated.
As with previous years, coverage was divided amongst American Broadcasting Company properties, the quarter-finals were broadcast on ESPN360, and the semi-finals were aired by ESPN, and the finals were broadcast by ABC. Unlike other ESPN-produced telecasts for ABC, ESPN branding was not used, even though the telecasts adopted the newer-styled ESPN graphics package.