The US-born son of immigrants from India overcame his longstanding problem with words of Germanic origin Thursday to win the 86th national spelling bee.
Arvind Mahankali, 13, from New York City, correctly spelled knaidel, a type of dumpling also known as a matzah ball, to become the sixth youth of south Asian heritage to win the coveted title in as many years.
He is also the first boy to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee since 2008.
Mahankali, the eldest son of an IT consultant father and a physician mother, had placed ninth in 2010, then third in 2011 and 2012. More often than not, it was words of Germanic words that denied him the championship.
"The German curse has turned into a German blessing," he said after besting eight other finalists in a nail-biting finale to a three-day nationally televised competition that started with 281 contestants from eight nations.
Earlier in the evening, Mahankali had aced such words as tokonoma (a recess opening in a Japanese living room) and kaumographer (someone who transfers designs onto cloth with a hot iron).
The youngster plans to save the $30,000 cash prize -- plus a $2,500 US savings bond -- for college, where he hopes to eventually get a doctorate degree in science.
Second place went to Pranav Sivakumar, 13, from Illinois, while Sriram Hathwar, 13, from New York, came in third. Amber Born, 14, a crowd-pleaser with her tension-breaking jokes, was the best among the girls in fourth place.