The Greek word is common church lingo for fellowship and community.
After the typical litany of obscure and clunky terms at this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee championships—bewusstseinslagen ousted one top competitor—the final word actually rang familiar to Christian viewers.
Koinonia was the winning word for the bee’s champion, 14-year-old speller Karthik Nemmani. A Greek word defined as “spiritual community,” it’s better known to believers as a term used to refer to Christian fellowship, or communion itself.
Karthik, who beat out more than 500 fellow spellers during the most competitive bee in history, said he knew the spelling of the final word as soon as the official pronouncer read it.
And so did many Christians who recognized the word from church life: It’s been used to name coffee shops, youth groups, worship bands, retreats, summer camps, and other ministries.
“If you grew up evangelical in the 90s you can totally spell koinonia because you had a crush on the drummer for a youth group band by that name,” joked author Rachel Held Evans on Twitter.
Christianity Today has reported on Koinonia Farms, an intentional community in Georgia that went on to launch Habit for Humanity, as well as Koinonia House, an aftercare program for previously incarcerated women.
Christians have adopted the word koinonia from the Greek New Testament, where it is translated as fellowship, communion, or partnership. It’s the word behind verses such as Acts 2:45, where the early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship,” and Philippians 1:5, when Paul prays with joy of “partnership in the gospel.”
The late evangelical scholar John Stott preached on the term:
That’s the Greek word …