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Word Games - Fun with Anagrams

Updated on September 14, 2012

What is an anagram?

An anagram is simply where the letters of a word or name or sentence are scrambled up and re-ordered to make a different word. All of the same letters must be used, and there should be no repeats, except for letters which appear more than once in the original word. Generally, in most anagrams the meaning of the new word or phrase bears some relationship to the original word, perhaps by having a similar meaning, being opposites, or just somehow amusing or ironic. Here are some examples:

Diplomacy - Mad Policy
the aristocracy - A Rich Tory Caste
the eyes - they see
astronomers - moon starers

Anagrams are often made of people's names, both first names and full names. Some good examples are:

Naomi - I Moan
Samantha - A Sham Ant
Margaret Thatcher - That Great Charmer

or even political:

European Union - No! A Rupee Union.
United States - Stateside Nut; Sedatest Unit

The more you play around with anagrams, the more fun you can have. From time to time you'll hear people say, 'did you know such and such was an anagram of so and so'. You can join in too!

History of Anagrams

Anagrams, as with many word games, have a long history, dating back at least to the Ancient Greeks who used them frequently. Anagrams have long been used to flatter, praise and curry favour with the rich and powerful, with people creating favourable anagrams of kings, queens and nobles, or derogatory anagrams about their enemies. The French King, Louis XIII, even appointed a royal anagrammatist to entertain people with anagrams of names and things.

Anagrams have also been used for mystical or spiritual purposes by some, supposedly having the quality of revealing truth and hidden qualities. Anagrams have even been used to predict the future. When Alexander the Great, the day before the siege of Tyre, dreamed about a Satyr, his advisor new it was a good omen because the Greek word for Satyr is an anagram of the phrase 'Tyre is Yours'.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, anagrams become popular word games and appeared in numerous books and magazines. As with so many other word games, Lewis Carroll was a keen creator of anagrams, coming up with ones for famous figures of the day such as Florence Nightingale (flit on, cheering angel) and Disraeli (I lead sir) amongst others. There is even a widely disputed theory that there are detailed descriptions of Jack the Ripper's murders hidden as anagrams in some of Lewis Carroll's works, indicating that he was at least partially responsible for the Jack the Ripper killings.

Anagram Games and Puzzles

On their own, Anagrams can be very fun puzzles, however some people have taken them a step further to invent other games with them. There are however a number of games that have been devised involving anagrams.

One of these is anagram verse puzzle devised by Hubert Philips. Each line of the verse contains a missing word, 3 in all, with all three words being anagrams of each other. The example is:

The ......... are terribly small,
Say I to my wife in the hall.
Her big .......... eyes
Open wide : she replies;
It was ...... I ordered, that's all!

The answers are melons, solemn and lemons.

Other games involve adding letters to a word to make an anagram of another word - 'add another letter to MANGER to get the name of a European country for instance (GERMANY).

Anagrams Today

Anagrams are a type of word game whose popularity is undimmed today. You regularly find anagrams in quizzes and crosswords, as well as occasional news stories - especially if there is an apt, and probably insulting, anagram of a politician or other public figure in the news!

Anagrams have also made their way on to TV game shows, in particular 'Countdown' which has regularly been showing a daily anagram with it's 'Countdown Conundrum' (or more than one in recent times) for more than 30 years, with it often being the decider at the end of a close game.

A little anagram quiz...

Okay, so here's a little anagram quiz for you. The Olympics has been the biggest sporting event of the year, so thought I'd scramble a few Gold Medal winning athletes for you to solve. Here goes.

  1. A Bust Lion
  2. Choppiest Thinker
  3. Slinky Fin Arms
  4. Gay Nuns
  5. Shy Choir
  6. Banal Hokey
  7. Slimy Bee Home
  8. A Cute Flimflam
  9. Ay Randy Rum
  10. Thorny Lace

Answers on a postcard (or in the comments section below!)


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    • profile image

      Ludo 2 years ago

      Re 16D, at first I thought the deintifion for EUROTRASH was merely Pom or Dane? with the ? being interpreted as meaning for example or say to make it clear that those two nationalities were being used as examples. But this still seemed unsatisfactory, casting a gratuitous slur on Europeans as a whole, rather than on just those two nationalities.But now I see haiku's explanation above makes more sense (the WHOLE clue is the deintifion). So it's not all Europeans who are Eurotrash; just those vile, outre, unthinking ones. (The ! at the end suggests &lit, too).Discussion point: I think I've read somewhere that in a true &lit the WHOLE clue should make up the wordplay. If that is so then this is not a true &lit. Also, to be a true &lit, should the WHOLE clue form the deintifion (as in this case)?

    • nakmeister profile image

      nakmeister 5 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      Thanks, glad you enjoyed them!

    • His princesz profile image

      His princesz 5 years ago

      I love anagrams. We used to play with it back in high school. It's a very good brain exercise. Great job! Voted up & useful ;)