An anagram is a word or phrase formed by rearranging the letters of a different word or phrase, typically using all the original letters exactly once. The original word or phrase is known as the subject of the anagram. Any word or phrase that exactly reproduces the letters in another order is an anagram.
Someone who creates anagrams may be called an “anagrammatist”, and the goal of a serious or skilled anagrammatist is to produce anagrams that reflect or comment on their subject. Anagrams can be traced back to the time of the ancient Greeks and were used to find hidden and mystical meanings in names. They are said to date back at least to the Greek poet Lycophron, in the third century BCE; but this relies on an account of Lycophron given by John Tzetzes in the 12th century.
Other sources suggest that Pythagoras, in the 6th century BC, used anagrams to discover deep philosophical meanings. In the 16th and 17th centuries, scientists, such as Galileo, Huygens, and Robert Hooke, often recorded their results in anagram form to stake their claim on discovery and prevent anyone else from claiming the credit. With the help of computer-based anagram generator software such as Anagram Genius, it has become quicker and easier to produce high-quality anagrams.
There is nevertheless still great skill required to create good anagrams, even using these anagram finder programs. While anagramming is certainly a recreation first, there are ways in which anagrams are put to use, and these can be more serious, or at least not quite frivolous and formless. For example, psychologists use anagram-oriented tests, often called “anagram solution tasks”, to assess the implicit memory of young adults and adults alike.
- Homer Hickam Jr.’s book Rocket Boys was adapted into the 1999 film October Sky.
- The tapes for the revival of the BBC show Doctor Who was labeled with the anagram Torchwood, which later went on to be used as the name for a spin-off show.
- Progressive rock group Rush published a song off their 1989 album Presto titled “Anagram (for Mongo)” which makes use of anagrams in every line of their song.
- The title of King Crimson’s 1982 song Thela Hun Ginjeet is an anagram of “heat in the jungle”.
- Clint Eastwood = old west action
- Jim Morrison = Mr. Mojo Risin’ – which he used in the song “L.A. Woman”
- William Shakespeare = I’ll make a wise phrase
- In Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, clues left by a murdered museum curator are hidden in anagrams: O, Draconian devil (Leonardo da Vinci), Oh, lame saint (the Mona Lisa), so dark the con of man (Madonna of the Rocks).
- In the movie and book, The Shining by Stephen King, the character Danny screams REDRUM and writes the word on the mirror using lipstick. REDRUM is an anagram for Murder.
- Eleven plus two — Twelve plus one
- The countryside — No City Dust Here
- The New Wave band Missing Persons’ best-selling album was called Spring Session M.
- Astronomer — Moon starer
- Harley Davidson Motorcycles — Very costly old road machines
- In a version of Scrabble called Clabbers, the name itself is an anagram of Scrabble. Tiles may be placed in any order on the board as long as they anagram to a valid word.
Anagram (for Mongo)
Music: Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson
Lyrics: Neil Peart
there’s a snake coming out of the darkness
parade from paradise
end the need for eden
chase the dreams of merchandise
there is tic and toc in atomic
leaders make a deal
the cosmic is largely comic
a con they couldn’t conceal
There is no safe seat at the feast
Take your best stab at the beast
The night is turning thin
The saint is turning to sin
raise the art to resistance
danger dare to be grand
pride reduced to humble pie
diamonds down to sand
take heart from earth and weather
the brightness of new birth
take heart from the harvest
shave the harvest from the earth
Reasoning is partly insane
Image just an eyeless game
The night is turning thin
The saint is turning to sin
miracles will have their claimers
more will bow to Rome
he and she are in the house
but there’s only me at home
rose is a rose of splendor
posed to respond in the end
lonely things like nights,
I find, end finer with a friend
I hear in the rate of her heart
A tear in the heat of the art
The night turns thin
The saint turns to sin
Programs like Wordsmith can solve anagrams for you.
The game “Anagrams” originated as a Victorian word game. An early modern version is Charles Hammett’s Word Making and Taking, released in 1877. The first version to include the word Anagrams in its name may have been The Game of Letters and Anagrams on Wooden Blocks, published by Parker Brothers around 1890.
- Lycophron (born about 330–325 BC) was a Hellenistic Greek tragic poet, grammarian, sophist, and commentator on comedy, to whom the poem Alexandra is attributed (perhaps falsely). [Back]
- John Tzetzes ( c. 1110 – 1180, Constantinople) was a Byzantine poet and grammarian who is known to have lived in Constantinople in the 12th century. He was able to preserve much valuable information from ancient Greek literature and scholarship. [Back]
- Pythagoras of Samos (c. 570 – c. 495 BC) was an ancient Ionian Greek philosopher and the eponymous founder of Pythagoreanism. His political and religious teachings were well known in Magna Graecia and influenced the philosophies of Plato, Aristotle, and, through them, the West in general. Knowledge of his life is clouded by legend, but he appears to have been the son of Mnesarchus, a gem engraver on the island of Samos. Modern scholars disagree regarding Pythagoras’s education and influences, but they do agree that around 530 BC, he traveled to Croton in southern Italy, where he founded a school in which initiates were sworn to secrecy and lived a communal, ascetic lifestyle. This lifestyle entailed a number of dietary prohibitions, traditionally said to have included vegetarianism, although modern scholars doubt that he ever advocated complete vegetarianism. [Back]