Bruhat Soma isn’t exactly sure what “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis” means (it’s a synonym for the disease known as silicosis), but the 45-letter word, the longest in the English language, gives him no trouble when it comes to spelling it, or pronouncing it for that matter.

That shouldn’t come as any surprise, considering that Bruhat, a 5th grader at Turner Bartels K-8 School, is something of a world-class word speller.

This week, the 10-year-old whiz kid will compete at the prestigious Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

Bruhat (who will be wearing No. 38 at the competition) will be one of 234 kids vying for the title. The Bee begins May 31; the Semifinals (June 1) and Finals (June 2) will be hosted by former “Roots” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” star LeVar Burton will air on the Ion TV network at 8 p.m. each night.

Bruhat will be one of the youngest competitors, but not the youngest — that honor will go to Matthew G. Yi, a 7-year-old 4th grader from New Orleans. But, Bruhat is already battle-tested. 

Last year, he finished second at the Regional qualifier, stumbling on the word “caryatid” (a sculpted female figure serving as an architectural support taking the place of a column), which he incorrectly spelled “carotid.” 

Ever since, he has had just one goal:

Being the champ.

“I just like competitions. I really want to get that trophy,” Bruhat says, his eyes widening and a large grin filling his face. “It’s so big!”

The winner also receives $50,000.

Bruhat has only been competing in spelling bees for three years. His dad, Srinivas Soma, signed him up when he was in the second grade for a spelling and math bee put on by the North South Foundation (aka North South), which organizes educational contests like spelling, math and geography bees, as well as others.

(l.-r.) Turner-Bartels principal LaMarr Buggs and gifted teacher Laurie Gonzalez, with Scripps National Spelling Bee contestant Bruhat Soma and his father Srinivas. (Photo: Charmaine George)

Although he didn’t have time to prepare, Bruhat finished first in the math bee, and sheepishly says he was eighth in spelling.

“There was no pressure,” dad Srinivas says. “He liked it. He started to show interest in it.”

Srinivas says Bruhat now has even more interest in reading and spelling, devouring everything in sight. He will read just about any piece of paper or book he can get his hands on, and works at least an hour a day on his spelling online at

“I like unusual words,” Bruhat says. “If I see a word with an unusual spelling, I try to find out more information about it.”

Like “cwm” (pronounced “koom”), an ancient Celtic instrument similar to a violin. And yes, cwm is in the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary.

“I like eccentric words like that,” Bruhat says.

For his end-of-the-year gifted class project at Turner Bartels, Bruhat created his own alphabet (with uppercase and lowercase letters) and wrote a poem about soccer in his new language.

“He excels in mathematics, but his real love is words,” says his gifted class teacher Laurie Gonzalez, 

His classmates, and the entire school, will be pulling hard for Bruhat.

“He is an amazing kid,” Gonzalez says. “He is gentle, kind and wicked smart. The other kids are very supportive of his achievements and they are kind of in awe of his level of intelligence.”

His buddy, Tejas Gattu, is sure to be watching as well.

“He (Tejas) always, like, tells me, ‘Wow, you’re the champion,’” Bruhat says. “One time, at a North South Regional, he said out loud so everyone could hear, ‘Bruhat, are you the state spelling bee champion?’ I was like, I already told you. I think he’s excited, he thinks it’s a big deal. He’s my best friend.”

Srinivas, who is originally from Nalgonda is southern India, says the cheering section at home — his mother Jyothi and sisters Reshma (6) and Laasya (8) — and in the Live Oak Preserve community are ready to root for Bruhat.

“There will be a lot of people cheering for him,” Srinivas says.

Bruhat will need the good vibes in what is sure to be a pressure-packed week.

While he hopes to see the White House, the Washington Monument and as many other memorials as he has time for, the Spelling Bee competition will be fierce. Since there were eight co-champions in 2019, the Scripps organizers have made the event more difficult. It now includes definitions in some rounds and, yes, the words are even tougher.

“I watched the 2019 spelling bee and I knew all the words, or like 98 percent of them,” Bruhat says. “In 2021, it was more like 50 percent.”

But, he is ready. He will be trying to become the second New Tampa student to win the national bee, joining Benito Middle’s Nupur Lala, who won the title on her second try in 1999 as a 14-year-old by spelling “logorrhea.”

“I’m very excited to compete, but when the competition day comes closer, I’ll probably feel kind of nervous,” Bruhat says. “For now, I’m excited. My goal is to become the Scripps Spelling Bee national champion. I have prepared for that.”

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