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How Do I Solve an Anagram?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2016
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In order to solve an anagram, a person will need a good vocabulary, pattern-recognition skills, and often a little luck. Solving anagrams can be a good way to exercise the brain, and may be a fun diversion for anyone who loves words and language. Some of the most popular ways to solve anagrams include looking for prefixes and suffixes, rearranging the word in a pattern, or simply manually trying out letter combinations.

Words in the English language often contain a core word, plus a prefix or suffix. Common prefixes found in English might include “un,” “de,” or “out,” while some common suffixes might be “ed,” “ing,” or “est.” Looking for telltale prefixes and suffixes can be a good way to get started on a word, leaving fewer letters to unscramble. If an anagram consists of the letters “GSINAV,” assuming the suffix is “ING” leaves only three letters to solve for the correct answer of “SAVING.”

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The human brain is quite good at recognizing word and letter patterns, even if this knowledge acts in a somewhat subconscious manner. One strategy that may help employ pattern skills to solve an anagram is rearranging the letters in a circle or square formation. By placing the letters in a geometric pattern, some people may find it easier to stop looking at the anagram as if it is an existing word, and focus on the letters individually. By doing this, it may be easier to recognize the relationship of one letter to another in a different order than the initial anagram form.

When all else fails, the most basic way to solve an anagram is by manually writing down letter combinations. A person can simply choose one of the letters to be the first letter in the word, then try out all the possible combinations of the subsequent letters. While this method can certainly yield results, it may take a very long time, especially with longer words. Having a fair understanding of the English language can help ease this method, as this can help eliminate letter combinations that are rarely, if ever, used.

One of the key strategies used to solve anagrams is simply to practice frequently. Since the skills needed to solve an anagram are largely based on pattern recognition, speed and accuracy may be gained by giving those skills a regular workout. Even solving one anagram a day for several weeks may lead to a marked improvement in pattern recognition abilities.

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bagley79
Post 9

Anagrams are one of those word games that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. These are great to use with kids to help them learn more about language and words.

It is fun to start out with simple three letter words when you are working with young kids. It doesn't take them long to catch on and if you make a game of it, they really enjoy it.

My grandma also enjoys solving anagrams. She works on all the puzzles that come in the paper, but she is especially good at anagrams and the crossword.

She also has books of anagrams she buys to take with her when she travels in the car. She uses

a dictionary when necessary, but would never think of using an online website to give her an advantage!

Her advice when it comes to solving anagrams is just to keep working at it and don't give up. Sometimes when you are really struggling with a word, step away and let your mind think about something else.

Many times when you do this, the word you are trying to solve will just pop in your head.

John57
Post 8

When I was growing up my best friend and I would pass the time in a long church service by working on solving anagrams.

This is something that kept our minds busy, passed the time quickly, and we looked like we were behaving ourselves!

If I saw a word with "ing" in the letters, my first clue was this was probably the last three letters of the word. Also, if you see both a "q" and a "u" in the word, it was pretty easy to figure out these were the first two letters of the word.

From doing many anagrams, I also found that the "un" prefix was just about as common as "ed" as a suffix.

I still enjoy solving anagrams and think working on any word game like this keeps your brain sharp.

sunshined
Post 7

One of the biggest reasons we take the weekend paper is to work on the Jumble anagrams. We don't have time to read the paper during the week, but look forward to this every weekend.

Over a leisurely breakfast, my husband and I will work on these puzzles together. We keep a dictionary close by to look up words if we aren't sure.

Once in awhile we have to cheat and use the internet to help us solve the anagram. What I have found is the more we do these, the easier they become.

I can see why they say that practice is the key. For some reason, it becomes easier and faster to solve these the more you do it.

NathanG
Post 6

@Mammmood - One tip is to realize that there are only so many vowel sounds in the English language. If you see an anagram and can immediately pick up on what appear to be the vowel combinations, you can most likely put the rest of the word together fairly quickly.

Of course with longer words this will be an additional challenge, since you may have multiple vowel combinations. But again, once you pick up on those combinations it should be easy to figure out what the word is.

Mammmood
Post 5

I agree with the point about the brain’s ability to recognize patterns and automatically unscramble words. I once saw a presentation that demonstrated this feat quite well.

The speaker showed us a passage of text; the first and last letters of each word in the text were correct, however the letters in between each word were jumbled.

The speaker then asked us to read the passage. To our amazement, we were able to read the passage quickly, easily unscrambling the words in our heads as if they had never been scrambled!

He said that the human brain only needs the first and last letter of a word to automatically decode it so to speak. I think that you have this capability at your disposal when you try to solve anagrams. The brain kicks into gear automatically to decode the word.

matthewc23
Post 4

I really like solving anagrams. I remember when I was younger, my grandmother and I would do the anagram puzzles in the newspapers and have a race to see who could figure it out the quickest. I think the suggestions that have already been mentioned are really good. I am not sure that I would have anything else to add.

I really do like the circle idea, though. That is something I have never tried, but I could definitely see how it would work. The thing I usually do that has a similar effect is write the letters in a column and then try to visualize each letter as being the first and how the others could fit together.

The only other suggestion I would have is to not overlook words where an unexpected letter or combination is at the beginning or end. Those are the ones I miss the most often. Besides that, don't get discouraged if you don't figure out the word. I am pretty good with anagrams, but there are days when you just won't see the word no matter what you do.

cardsfan27
Post 3

@stl156 - JimmyT had some really good suggestions. Something else I would throw in that the article kind of mentioned was just getting familiar with word structure. If I look at a word for a little while and can't come up with an immediate answers, I start trying common letter combinations. What I mean is like, if you have two of the same letter, do they commonly go together (tt, ss, oo). You can also think of the reverse of that. If you have two A's, H's, or W's, you can almost count on them not being next to each other.

The other thing to try, too, is finding the most likely letter to be at the beginning or end. J's and Q's are much more likely to be at the beginning of a word than in the middle.

And like all things: practice, practice, practice.

JimmyT
Post 2

@stl156 - There are a lot of other things you can do to improve your anagram skills. Like the article says, the more you practice, the better you will be.

Besides the prefixes and suffixes mentioned in the article, some other good ones are re-, de-, -er, and -tion. One of the other things that will really help if you are doing the puzzles you mentioned is using context clues. In the Jumble, the answer is usually a pun of some sort, so thinking about words that relate the clue will help. The same with crossword books.

Something else that will really help is just increasing your vocabulary. For example, if you have the letters EAUSETR, it doesn't matter how many times you rearrange them if you don't know that AUSTERE is a word. Some way to improve those types of skills would be by playing games like Scrabble.

stl156
Post 1

I have never really been very good at solving anagrams, and I wish I were better. I think part of my problem is that I get too focused on a certain set of letters and miss out on other letters that make combinations.

Besides what was mentioned above, does anyone else have any additional hints? A lot of the anagram puzzles I would like to solve are either like the Jumble from the newspaper or things out of crossword puzzle books. Tricks for those would be even more helpful.

Does anyone know of any other places that have anagrams that I could practice with?

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