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An anagram (< Greek anagramma 'letters written anew', passive participle of ana- 'again' + gramma 'letter') is a type of word play, the result of rearranging the letters of a word or phrase to produce other words, using all the original letters exactly once; e.g., Eleven plus two=Twelve plus one, A Decimal Point=I'm a Dot in Place, Astronomers=Moon Starers. Someone who creates anagrams is called an anagrammist. The original word or phrase is known as the subject of the anagram. Technically, any word or phrase which exactly reproduces the letters in another is an anagram; e.g., saltine = entails. However, the goal of serious or skilled anagrammists is to produce anagrams which, in some way, reflect or comment on the subject. Such an anagram may be a synonym or antonym of its subject, a parody, a criticism, or praise. Another goal of anagrammists is to produce an anagram which is not only new, or previously unknown to others (this is known as "discovering" an anagram), but also one that is considered clever enough that it becomes widely known and enters the canon of famous or classic anagrams, like the examples below.


The construction of anagrams is an amusement of great antiquity. They were popular throughout Europe during the Middle Ages, although it is widely believed the art of anagramming was invented by the Greek poet Lycophron.

W. Camden (Remains, 7th ed., 1674) defines "Anagrammatisme" as "a dissolution of a name truly written into his letters, as his elements, and a new connection of it by artificial transposition, without addition, subtraction or change of any letter, into different words, making some perfect sense applyable (i.e., applicable) to the person named." Dryden disdainfully called the pastime the "torturing of one poor word ten thousand ways" but many men and women of note have found amusement in it.

A well-known anagram is the change of "Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum" (Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord [is] with you) into "Virgo serena, pia, munda et immaculata" (Serene virgin, pious, clean and spotless). Among others are the anagrammatic answer to Pilate's question, "Quid est veritas?" (What is truth?), namely, "Est vir qui adest" (It is the man who is here); and the transposition of "Horatio Nelson" into "Honor est a Nilo" (Latin = Honor is from the Nile); and of "Florence Nightingale" into "Flit on, cheering angel". James I's courtiers discovered in "James Stuart" "a just master", and converted "Charles James Stuart" into "Claims Arthur's seat" (even at that point in time, the letters I and J were more-or-less interchangeable). "Eleanor Audeley", wife of Sir John Davies, is said to have been brought before the High Commission in 1634 for extravagances, stimulated by the discovery that her name could be transposed to "Reveale, O Daniel", and to have been laughed out of court by another anagram submitted by the dean of the Arches, "Dame Eleanor Davies", "Never soe mad a ladie".


The pseudonyms adopted by authors are sometimes transposed forms, more or less exact, of their names; thus "Calvinus" becomes "Alcuinus" (V = U); "Francois Rabelais" = "Alcofribas Nasier"; "Arrigo Boito" = "Tobia Gorrio"; "Edward Gorey" = "Ogdred Weary", = "Regera Dowdy" or = "E. G. Deadworry" (and others); "Vladimir Nabokov" = "Vivian Darkbloom", = "Vivian Bloodmark" or = "Dorian Vivalcomb"; "Bryan Waller Proctor" = "Barry Cornwall, poet"; "Henry Rogers" = "R. E. H. Greyson"; "(Sanche) de Gramont" = "Ted Morgan", and so on. It is to be noted that several of these are "imperfect anagrams", letters having been left out in some cases for the sake of easy pronunciation.

For his book Mu Revealed, a spoof on the works of James Churchward, occult writer Raymond Buckland used the pseudonym "Tony Earll", an anagram for "Not Really".[1]

"Telliamed", a simple reversal, is the title of a well known work by "De Maillet". One of the most remarkable pseudonyms of this class is the name "Voltaire", which the celebrated philosopher assumed instead of his family name, François Marie Arouet, and which is now generally allowed to be an anagram of "Arouet, l[e] j[eune]" (U=V, J=I) that is, "Arouet the younger". Anagramming may also be used to good effect in farce or parody. A writer might take an unpleasant person he knows, base a character in a book on him, and then transpose the letters in the source's name.


Some of the following anagrams are from a jokes page on the GNU General Public License website. The Harry Potter ones are from The I am that is anagram comes from the novel Redwall by Brian Jacques. The Alec Guinness one is attributed to Dick Cavett.

Original word or phrase (or subject) Anagram
Eric Rice
Doctor Who Torchwood
Gregory House
Eric Foreman
Allison Cameron
Robert Chase
Huge Ego, Sorry
Ace Informer
Nonsocial Lamer
Case Brother
Dormitory Dirty Room
Evangelist Evil's agent
Tom Marvolo Riddle I am Lord Voldemort
The Morse Code Here Come Dots
Slot Machines Cash Lost in 'em
Animosity Is No Amity
Mother-in-law Woman Hitler
Snooze Alarms Alas! No More Z's
Alec Guinness Genuine Class
Semolina Is No Meal
The Public Art Galleries Large Picture Halls, I Bet
The Earthquakes That Queer Shake
Eleven plus two Twelve plus one
Contradiction Accord not in it
Astronomer Moon Starer
Princess Diana End is a car spin
Year Two Thousand A year to shut down
Presbyterian Best in prayer
Presbyterians Britney Spears
Nessiteras rhombopteryx Monster hoax by Sir Peter S"
The eyes They see
Sean Connery On any screen
Election results Lies - let's recount
"To be or not to be: that is the question, whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." "In one of the Bard's best-thought-of tragedies, our insistent hero, Hamlet, queries on two fronts about how life turns rotten."
"That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." --Neil Armstrong "A thin man ran; makes a large stride, left planet, pins flag on moon! On to Mars!"
Mike Newell's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Enthralling film, yet we prefer to read the books!
Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson Cue fine new film drama starring Potter lad
The children's author JK Rowling hint: her skill conjured Hogwart!
The Germans soldiers Hitler's men are dogs
I am that is I Matthias
Clint Eastwood Old West action
Why shouldn't America go re-elect President Clinton in Ninety-Six? He has a prime or cunning tendency to wildly solicit Internet sex.
Astronomers No more stars
Astronomers Morons stare
Astronomers A moron rests
Vala Mal Doran Amoral Vandal
Atheism It has me
"Godless: The Church of Liberalism" O, hell: Coulter's highbred fascism
"The Dark Tower" A word: the trek
Annuit Coeptis, Novus Ordo Seclorum A Cut In On U.S. Providence! So, Lust Room!
Révolution Française Un veto corse la finira (in English : French Revolution is the anagram of A Corsican veto will end it)


Summary anagrams[]

Another genre of anagramming is that which deals with using anagrams of quoted literature in order to convey the essence of the work itself. This style is commonly referred to as summary anagramming and is a favorite genre of noted contemporary anagrammatists such as Simon Woodard. Below is an example of one of Woodard's polished summary anagrams, on Homer's Odyssey:

"Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns, driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy." -Homer's Odyssey
Hurrying home to his wife, Odysseus shoved off, fled the sea god's wrath, endured many moments of mistreatment, then landed on southern Ithaca...a long epic![2]


One practical use to which anagrams have been turned is to be found in the transpositions in which some of the astronomers of the 17th century embodied their discoveries with the design apparently of avoiding the risk that, while they were engaged in further verification, the credit of what they had found out might be claimed by others. Thus Galileo announced his discovery that Venus had phases like the Moon in the form "Haec immatura a me iam frustra leguntur -oy" (Latin: These immature ones have already been read in vain by me -oy), that is, when rearranged, "Cynthiae figuras aemulatur Mater Amorum" (Latin: The Mother of Loves [= Venus] imitates the figures of Cynthia [= the moon]). Similarly, when Robert Hooke discovered Hooke's law in 1660, he first published it in anagram form. One might think of this as a primitive example of a zero-knowledge proof.

There are also a few "natural" anagrams, English words unconsciously created by switching letters around. The French chaise longue ("long chair") became the American "chaise lounge" by metathesis (transposition of letters and/or sounds). It has also been speculated that the English "curd" comes from the Latin crudus ("raw").

Notable anagrams[]

  • In 1975, British naturalist Sir Peter Scott coined the scientific term "Nessiteras rhombopteryx" (Greek for "The monster {or wonder} of Ness with the diamond shaped fin") for the aprocryphical Loch Ness Monster. Shortly afterwards, several London newspapers pointed out that "Nessiteras rhombopteryx" anagrams into "Monster hoax by Sir Peter S".[3]
  • The related words "parental", "prenatal", and "paternal" are all anagrams of one another.
  • "Eleven plus two" is an anagram of "Twelve plus one", and they have the same sums.
  • The antonyms "united" and "untied" are anagrams of each other.
  • Teachers often use the fact that Listen is an anagram of Silent when encouraging their students to listen quietly.
  • Walker Texas Ranger is an anagram of Karate Wrangler Sex, and this is one of the Chuck Norris Facts.
  • In Harry Potter series, Tom Marvolo Riddle is an anagram of "I am Lord Voldemort"
  • In Kingdom Hearts II, name of each member of Organization XIII is an anagram of each member's original name plus letter X.


=Anagram construction[]

Before the Computer Age, anagrams were constructed using a pen and paper or lettered tiles, by playing with letter combinations and experimenting with variations. (Some individuals with prodigious talent have also been known to ‘see’ anagrams in words, unaided by tools.) Anagram dictionaries could also be used to create anagrams.

Computers have enabled a new method of creating anagrams, the anagram server, anagram solver or anagrammer. These are often used to find solutions for crosswords, Scrabble, Boggle and other word games. A large number of these are available on the Internet. When the anagrammist enters a word or phrase the program or server utilizes an exhaustive database of words to produce a list containing every possible combination of words or phrases from the input word or phrase. Some programs such as Lexpert (used for Scrabble) only allow one-word answers. Many anagram servers can control the search results, by excluding or including certain words, limiting the number or length of words in each anagram, or limiting the number of results. Anagram solvers are often banned from online anagram games, such as Yahoo! Literati where they can be used for an unfair advantage, in some cases allowing a player to never miss a single word.

Anagram solving[]

Main article: Anagram problem solving

Anagram solvers do not have to use English. Any language can be used, particularly those which use the Roman alphabet. Anagrammers can even find solutions in multiple languages at the same time. Anagrammers may have other related functions, such as fitting the letters into a certain sequence. If while doing a crossword the reader knows he has a seven letter word in the form Z?R??N? (the question marks represent a blank square) then an anagram solver can tell us all the words that fit this pattern, for example zeroing and zircons.

When sharing their newly discovered anagrams with other enthusiasts, some anagrammists indicate the method they used. Anagrams constructed without aid of a computer are noted as having been done ‘manually’ or ‘by hand’; those made by utilizing a computer may be noted ‘by machine’ or ‘by computer’, or may indicate the name of the computer program (using ‘Anagram Genius’).

Main article: List of anagrams used in psychological research

See also[]

  • ambigram
  • blanagram
  • palindrome
  • pangram
  • constrained writing
  • letter bank
  • Erewhon
  • wordplay


External links[]

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