I find it interesting that they decided to call a spelling competition a 'spelling bee'. How did the word 'bee' become known to also mean a competition?
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The bee part isn't restricted to competitions; it more generally means a gathering:
Etymonline offers this history:
Wikipedia's entry contests this:
They have Merriam-Webster listed as a source. Thus, the specific origin of bee in this sense is ambiguous. The term spelling bee, however, is just a variation of the usage and appears to have been introduced in the early 1800s.
The term "bee" originally meant:
So a "spelling bee" doesn't refer so much to a competition as such, but more to a gathering of people in order to partake in the singular action of spelling.