Anagrams Explained

Anagrams Explained

Anagrams—a mainstay of word games and tough crossword puzzles—involve rearranging letters in existing words to form new words. Learn more by looking at anagram examples and strategies for solving anagrams.

What Is an Anagram?

An anagram is a type of wordplay that involves rearranging the letters of a word or phrase to form new words and phrases. The anagrammatic practice dates back to the ancient Greeks. Anagrams have been used in the English language since the Middle Ages, with a particular surge in the early modern period of the seventeenth century.

In anagramming, the original word or phrase is called the “subject.” The rearranged letters form the actual anagram.

4 Examples of Anagrams

Anagrams appear in all corners of the English written language.

  1. In popular culture: Jim Morrison, the lead singer of the Doors, used the anagram “Mr. Mojo Risin’” to refer to himself in the song “LA Woman.” Clint Eastwood’s full name can be rearranged to spell “Old West Action.” Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons, chose the name Bart Simpson because “Bart” is a word anagram of “brat.”
  2. In literature: William Shakespeare named his fictional prince Hamlet using an anagram of the legendary Danish prince Amleth. The villain of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Lord Voldemort, was previously named Tom Marvolo Riddle; this name can be rearranged to spell “I am Lord Voldemort.” Dan Brown loads The Da Vinci Code with anagrams such as “Oh, lame saint” (The Mona Lisa) and “O Draconian Devil” (Leonardo da Vinci).
  3. Everyday words: Sometimes anagrams provide a candid description of a person or place. “Astronomer” can be anagrammed into “moon starer.” “Dormitory” forms the anagram “dirty room.” “A gentleman” can be rearranged as “elegant man.”
  4. Math: Anagrams even work in math. “Eleven plus two” can become “twelve plus one.”

How to Solve an Anagram

Consider these tips for tackling anagrams.

  1. Rearrange the letters. The simplest approach to finding new words, rearranging the initial word or jumble of letters can be an easy way to change your perspective and reveal hidden combinations.
  2. Look for common consonant sounds. Consonants, or letters that aren’t vowels, can provide the framework for several words. For example, find common letter pairings like “th,” “st,” and “sh” and build out from there with the remaining letters and vowels.
  3. Isolate the vowels. Similar to identifying common consonant sounds, isolate the vowels and find common pairings like “ou,” “ie,” “ay,” and “ea.” From there, you can build out words with the remaining letters or combine them with the consonant sounds you identified.
  4. Expand your vocabulary. To excel at anagrams, you must have a large vocabulary and experience with wordplay. Doing crossword puzzles and playing board games like Scrabble, newspaper puzzles like Jumble, and digital apps like Words With Friends can help you build anagram-related skills and expand your vocabulary.
  5. Create your own anagrams. You can also practice creating your own anagrams. Start with short words and work your way up to longer words and phrases with more complicated combinations. This will come in handy as you solve anagrams created by anagram generators.
  6. Use an automated anagram solver. The Internet features free and paid word unscramblers that can do the heavy lifting for you. Use these products when you quickly need to untangle an anagram but haven’t yet built up your own skill.

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