Mnemonic images for common English words - as per Gary Lanier & Lociinthesky for memorising poetry / texts - (long term)

At times, I have my images for a line of poetry but keep getting caught out on one of these smaller words…probably over thinging about it and my mind goes blank searching for image. As a beginner, having a predefined list is a great aide .
Again thanks

Thank you tarnation for your list. I had been slowly working on a list as well, but yours inspired me to spend more time on the one I was doing, plus some how your list made it easier to come up with more images for abstract words. The list I’m presenting here is from a list of the 500 most common words used in the English language. It can be found at: I like this source because it lists word forms rather than lexemes. My list here is for the 1st 150 words most common to the English language. Approx. 70 of the first 100 words are also on tarnation’s list, and will be denoted by the symbol for the swung dash ~ in front of the mnemonic image given by tarnation for that given word.
Some of the images I came up with were from the list on .

When you see an asterisk * behind a word it means that it is also listed for a an image on a different word. One should look over the entire list before selecting individual mnemonic image - word pairs. When ever I could, I gave multiple mnemonic images for each word, in order to help you create the strongest mnemonic choices possible.

Given that Wikipedia claims that the 100 most common lexemes (lemmas) account for 50% of the total of English that is written and spoken (the Oxford Corpus of over a billion words), it seems to me that having a mnemonic image pairing of the first few hundred of the most common words makes this into a system (or list) that is as effective (in its own way) as the Major System, Dominic System, or Ben System. The technique of converting common words into mnemonic images, C.W.I.M.I (mnemonic image “Swami”) can be used to more effectively remember verbatim text facts and poetry.

  1. the ~ theatre; tea; thug; tee(golf); drop the "t’ to get “he” and use He-Man,
    2.of ~ oven*; dove*; glove; ~ tomato*; tutu*; glue*; tooth*;
    4.and ~ android; hand; Ann (Raggedy Ann - or Andy);
  2. a ~ apple; ape
  3. in ~ inn; motel;
  4. is ~ Isis (terrorist idiots) or (goddess); Izzy; Liz; lizard;
  5. it ~ Cousin It (Adams’ Family); Clown (from S. King’s IT);
  6. you ~ ewe; U-turn street sign; You Tube; Ubik, Uber;
  7. that ~ Thatcher (Margaret); thot (hoe)*; hat; holy hat ( t is the cross on top of the hat ); phat;
  8. he ~ healer; He Man*; Hee- Haw ( Name of old country music variety TV show-also means a country rube);
  9. was ~ wasp; wuss; coward; Fuzzy Wuzzy;
  10. for ~ fore (golf); frog; Ford (auto)
  11. on ~ ~onion; switch (on light switch); iron (clothes iron);
  12. are ~ Ares; pirates (pirates say “aarrahh”…or something like that!)
    16 .with ~ withered; width (make image very wide); whip;
  13. as ~ass(donkey); asp;
  14. I ~ aye aye; eyeball; glass eye; (suggestion- use "glass eye for “I” and “eyeball” for “eye”, common word #222).
  15. his ~ hiss; hissing cat, Hermann Hesse;
  16. they ~ Dey (Susan); hay; cross - t - on a pile of hay;
  17. be ~ bee; Hamlet (“To be or not to be”);
  18. at ~ At-at (Star Wars); bat; vat; atom; Attila (the Hun); Attucks (Crispus);
  19. one ~ Juan (Don Juan); wand;
  20. have ~ heaven; halve, (cut the image in half);
  21. this ~ thistle; cobra hissing ( t is the shape of a risen cobra -and it is hissing);
  22. from ~ fromage (cheese in French); frump, frumpy (person); prom, drum; frown; frond(fern leaf); rum (cask of rum);
  23. or ~ ore; oar; ruins of Orr;
  24. had ~ Hades; Mad Hatter;
  25. by ~ buy; baby waving bye-bye: bi-sexual;
  26. hot - hot pants; hotties; hut; thot (That Hoe Over There);hot potato; Hottentot; hot peppers;
    (Actually, “hot is also listed as #487” “not” is probably the real #30 on the word list.
    not ~ knot; Don Knotts, Fort Knoxx, slip knot;
  27. but ~ butt; cigarette butt; bat; boot;
  28. some - sum (of the equation); slum, slump pump;
  29. what ~ watt (light bulb); Watson ( Dr. or Mr.); wet hat ( W stands for wet and add hat to it-wet hat((it drips!))
  30. there ~ daredevil; hare (hare with a cross- holy hare); fair (state)
  31. we ~ weeping willow; we- we; peeing;
  32. can ~ can (tin can); candy; candy striper;
  33. out ~ outhouse; umpire; (shouting “You’re out!”); Lady Macbeth ( “Out damn spot!”)
  34. other - otter; udder;
  35. were ~werewolf; weirdo (moi); worm*:
  36. all ~ All (dishwashing soap) awl (tool that bores holes);
  37. your ~ yore (picture knight in suit of armor); yolk (egg); York Peppermint Patty; yoke (on ox);
  38. when ~ Wayne (From Wayne’s World); Wayne (Newton); wet hen;
  39. up ~ Up (animated movie); a sign pointing upward( and everything around it is floating upwards); throw-up;
  40. use - Jews; Uzi (machine gun); ooze; Ozzie(and Harriet);
  41. word - Bible (The Word); perv;
  42. how ~ Howard the Duck; Howard (Cosell), howl (wolf howling); Indian Chief ( Saying “How”);
  43. said - sled; Sid (Caesar); Sid (Vicious); sad(sad clown);
  44. an ~ ant; aunt ( pronounced as ‘ant’ in much of America);
  45. each - peach; itch; beach;
  46. she ~ shepherd; She-Ra- Princess of Power;
  47. which ~ witch, switch (to beat with); wrench; wench;
  48. do ~ do-do (doggy-do); Do (big hair); dew (morning moisture); Dew (Mountain);
  49. their ~ Truth or Dare; heir;
  50. time ~ time machine; a dime with a tiny clock on it;
  51. if ~ Eiffel Tower; elf;
  52. will ~ Wilkinson blade; Last Will and Testament; Will Robinson (from “Lost in Space”);
  53. way - wave(Giant Wave); large crowd doing “The Wave”; Milky Way (our galaxy); Milky Way candy bar;
  54. about ~ a boat; Albert (Fat Albert); a bolt;
    59 many - Minnie Mouse; minion; minivan; minnow;
  55. then ~ Thin Man; hen; Ken (Barbie’s);
  56. them ~ thumb(hitch hike); hymn; hem (of dress - with little crosses dangling on the end of the hem);
  57. would ~ wood; wooden world (or globe); Woody Woodpecker, wood pile; woodchuck;
  58. write - rite dye (wet rite dye); last rites;
  59. like ~ lick; Ike (Eisenhower-“I like Ike”); dike;
  60. so ~ sew; snow;
  61. these ~ Bees (Many of them); “dez nuts”, tease;
  62. her ~ hearse; hermaphrodite; hermit; Hercules; Hearst (William Randolph);
  63. long - Long John Silver; lung; lung fish;
  64. make ~ maker (From Dune); Maker’s Mark (whiskey);
  65. thing ~ Thing (Fantastic Four ); ding-a-ling; The Thing(from the movie- for the plural form of thing -“things”);
  66. see ~ seal (Navy Seal); seal (animal); sea; seed; see-saw;
  67. him ~ hymn*; hem*; ham;
  68. two ~ use your symbol for two; tuba;;shoe; twins; Siamese twins
    74 has - ash; haze (Purple?); hash(beef);
  69. Look ~ Lucky Luke; Look Magazine; binoculars;
  70. more ~ lawn mower; moor, moors, Moore (Thomas Moore);
  71. day ~ Doris Day; Sandra Day O’Connor: Daniel Day-Lewis; payday (a peanut candy bar);
  72. could ~ cold; coal; cud (cow’s);
  73. go ~ Go to jail (Monopoly); the game of Go; go-go dancer;
  74. come ~ ejaculate; comb; honeycomb (dripping);
  75. did - deed; dildo; dead; katydid ( insect);
  76. my ~ myna(bird), Maya Angelou; Mayan;
    83 .sound - Sounder; hound; Hound of Baskervilles; sonar;
  77. no ~ Dr. No; toddler stomping foot and yelling “NO!”;
  78. most - mast; moose;
  79. number - Limburger (cheese); NUNs on iceBERg; Nuremberg Trials;
  80. who ~ owl; Dr. Who; The Who (rock band);
    88.over - oven*; overcoat;
  81. know ~ canoe; snow*;
  82. water - water (glass of, drop of ); waiter;
  83. than - van; hand with a cross stuck in it; fan; afghan (shawl or dog);
  84. call - call girl; E.T. (call home );
  85. first - thirst (in desert) = canteen; purse;
  86. people - pee on a pole; pee apple (apple peeing…apple juice?);
  87. may - may pole; May Day (parade); maid; mayfly;
  88. down ~ goose (source of down); street sign pointing down; drowned (body);
  89. side - a slide; sliders (little hamburgers); side of fries;
  90. been - garbage bin; Big Ben (clock); Ben (the rat in the movie “Ben”);
  91. now ~ Noah; N.O.W. (women protesters burning their bras);
  92. find - fiend;
  93. any -" innie" belly button; Annie (from the play);
  94. new - nude;
  95. work - wok; wreck; ship wreck;
  96. part - part (in hair); fart; peeing art;
  97. take ~Taken (movie with Liam Neeson); steak; stake; cake;
  98. get ~ Get Smart (TV spy comedy); glitter; grit; grits;
  99. place - plate; palace;
  100. made - maid*; maiden; Maid Marian (Robin Hood’s main squeeze);
  101. live - liver: live-Live TV reporter,
  102. where - wares; warehouse; were-wolf*;
  103. after - aft of ship; after-shave;
  104. back ~ backpack; baby back ribs; big butt woman (“baby got back”);
  105. little - Stuart Little; litter; liter; Little Big Man(Indian Chief);
  106. only ~ Puff the Magic dragon (…in land called Honah Lee); ornery; horny; honey;
  107. round - round (a bullet); round-robin; round table(knight’s of the);
  108. man - man; a manly man; mannequin;
  109. year - ear, ear with ear ring);
  110. came - cane; orgasm;
  111. show - Broadway show;
  112. every - ivory; ivy; Everest (Mt.);
  113. good - God; goad; goal; Goodbar (a chocolate peanut candy bar);
  114. me ~ meal; opera singer (singing"me me,me" - and she’s fat and sings last);
  115. give - grieve;
  116. our ~ hour glass; owl*;
  117. under ~ underwear; underpants; udder*;
  118. name ~ lame; Nemo;
  119. very - Vera (from Brit T.V. detective series); vermin;
  120. through - throne; throng; tunnel (to go through);
  121. just - justice; Lady Justice; Justin Bieber;
  122. form - foam; farm;
  123. much - mulch; munch; munchkin;
  124. great - grater (cheese), gator (alligator); Alexander the Great;
  125. think ~ The Thinker (Rodin’s); sink; fink; finch (small bird); Barton Fink;
  126. say ~ Satan; Marquis de Sade; suede(blue suede shoes);
  127. help - whelp; kelp;
  128. low - Sweet & Low(artificial sweetener - the pink one); Lowe (Rob);
  129. line - What’s my Line; fishing line; clothes line; coke line;
  130. before - bees playing golf; bee’s fort;
  131. turn - turd; tern; Turner (Tina); Turner (Edward);
    140;cause - claws; Santa Claus, coz’ (cousin);
  132. same - shame: Shane:
  133. mean - Mean girls; meanies;
  134. differ - drifter; Drifters (the band);
  135. move - movie projector;
  136. right - Mr. Right; Wright brothers (their plane);
  137. boy - boy;
  138. old - gold; mold;
  139. too - glue*; tutu* tomato*; tooth*; tuba;
  140. does - doves*; does (several female deer together);
  141. tell - Tell (William); telephone;
    …-BONUS- …LAGNIAPPE…as they say in Louisiana …
  142. sentence - Santana (Carlos); singing tents; sentries;
  143. set - a tennis set (2 players competing); stage set;
  144. three - use your symbol for 3; triplets;
  145. want - won ton soup; wonk; wanton person;
  146. air - air; heir*; airhead; Air Jordans;
  147. well - well; (wishing or old-fashioned); oil well; Wells (H.G.);
  148. also - a sewing contest (with lots of people); ozone; a group of people all sewn together.
  149. play - play-do; player ( a Casanova);
  150. small - Biggie Smalls; The Incredible Shrinking man;
  151. end - Porky Pig (saying “Th- Th- Th-Th-Th- … That’s all folks!”);

I think I’m done with this, although no doubt there are still mistakes here. So, if anybody was following this post, thanks for your patience. I may do another post, and put this list along with about another 100 common words into an alphabetical order listing.


I’m sorry it took me so long to finish the list above. I have no home computer, I’m a horribly SLOW typist, plus after awhile, this site decided I was a robot, and so several times I lost what I had just typed. But that posting is done. Making this list helped me in that it greatly expanded the number of common word - mnemonic images than what I had previously. Before, I probably had about 20 words-mnemonic image pairings, and even that small amount was a big help. Ex. in memorizing the 1st section of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Const. I could never always recall that it began as “All persons born” or "Any person born’ until I came up with the image of “Buffy the Vampire killer (my symbol for #14) using an awl (my image for “all”) to bore ( born) into persons (or perVERT’S sons). Now, I don’t forget. Of course not every word needs to be converted into an 'image”…for me, the meaning and the important words of a text are remembered, it’s the support words I forget.

So, converting common words into mnemonic images, (C.W.I.M.I. or “Swami”), can I think be really usefully for those of us with non great natural memories, to be in a better position to long term remember text verbatim.

So I’m seriously thinking of putting the list of the 1st 160 most common words, along with several hundred other common words into alphabetical order, and posting it either under this posting or a new one. If anyone wants to contribute their own word-mnemonic image pairings, it would be really appreciated by me. I’m, and I suspect tarnation is as well, of the Boomer generation, and so some of our word pairings may have be too obtuse for most of the younger membership here.

1 Like

That works out to be a good thing for me as I am a terribly slow reader. :wink:

Nice work, Thom.

By the way, since doing this, I have found it more useful than I originally expected.

This is brilliant. Thanks for sharing.

Thanks tarnation & Bonsai. Your encouragement means a lot.

Yes. it is interesting in how putting up a list like this opens up the ability to remember material more effectively.

So, putting the common word -mnemonic image parings in order of which words are most common, is a good way of realizing which word parings should first be learned, going through that list to find a particular word is trying.

So, if I decide to do a another list, adding more words, and putting it into alphabetical order, should it be added to this posting, or a new one? And if a new one, is it best to post it under Memory Systems and Techniques Forum, or one of the other forums like the Poetry or Teaching forums?


Here is the beginnings of the list of 160 most commonly used words, listed in alphabetical order, This is the same list as I put together before (in post #11), putting together a list of suggested mnemonic images to pair with them or the SWAMI Memory System (Simple Words Alternated ((into)) Mnemonic Images ). Numbers in the bracket denotes that word’s ranking.

[5] - a ~ apple; ape; A-bomb;
[58] - about ~ a boat; Albert(Fat Albert); a bolt; boxing match;
[111] - after -aft(of a ship): after shave;
[155] - air - air (puff);hair*;airhead; Air Jordan; Airedale (dog breed);
[40] - all ~ All (dishwashing soap); awl (hand tool to bore holes);
[157] - also - a sewing contest with lots of people competing; a group of people all sown together; aloe; ape with a lasso (“a”=ape and “lso” = lasso);
[48] - an- ant; aunt ( the way many Americans pronounce the word );
[4] - and ~android; hand; Ann (Raggedy Ann -or Andy);
[101] -any -“innie” belly button; Annie (from the play);
[15] - are ~Ares; pirates(pirates say ''arrarahh" … or something like that! );
[17] - as - ass (donkey) asp;
[22] - at - At-At (Star Wars); bat*; vat; atom; Attila (the Hun); Attucks (Crispus);

[112] - back ~ backpack; baby back ribs; big butt woman ('Baby got back!");
[21] - be ~bee; Hamlet (“To be or not to be”);
[138] - before - bee playing golf(fore!); bee’s fort;
[98] - been-garbage bin; Big Ben(the clock); Ben (the rat in the movie “Ben”);
[146] - boy - a boy; boy toy;
[31] - but ~ butt; cigarette butt; bat*; boot;
[29] - by ~ buy; baby waving bye-bye; bisexual;

[92] - call - call girl; E.T. (call home);
[118] - came - cane; orgasm; Cain;
[36] - can ~ can (tin); candy; candy striper;
[140] - cause - claws; Santa Claus; coz (cousin)
[80] - come ~ ejaculate; comb; honeycomb (dripping);
[78] - could ~ cold; coal; cud (a cow’s);

[77] - day~ Doris day; Sandra Day (O’Connor); Daniel Day-Lewis; pay day (peanut candy bar);
[ 81] -did- deed; dildo; dead; Katy-did (insect);
[143] - differ - drifter; Drifters(the band);
[53] - do ~doo - doo;(doggy-doo); Do (big hair) dew(morning moisture); Dew (Mountain);
[149] - does - doves;*, does( girl deers);
[96] - down ~ goose (source of down); street sign pointing down; drowned (body);

[49] - each - peach; itch; beach;
[160] - end - Porky Pig (saying"Th-Th-Th-Th-Th … That’s all folks!");
[120] - every - ivory; ivy; Everest (Mt.);

[100] - find - fiend;
[93] - first - thirst (in desert) = canteen; purse;
[13] - for ~fore(golf); frog*; Ford(truck); Ford (Henry or Gerald);
[130] - form - foam; farm;
[26} - from ~ fromage (French for cheese); frump; frumpy(person); prom; drum; frown; frog*; frond(fern leaf); rum (cask of);

[106] - get ~ Get Smart(TV spy comedy); glitter; grit; grits;
[123] - give - grieve;
[79] - go ~ Go to Jail (Monolopy): the game of Go; go-go dancer;
[121] - good - God; goad; goal; Goodbar (a chocolate peanut candy bar);
[132] - great - grater (cheese); gator (alligator); Alexander (the Great

[28] - had ~ Hades; Mad Hatter;
[74] - has - ash; haze (Purple?); hash (beef) hashish;;
[24] - have ~heaven; halve (cut the image in half);
[11] - he ~healer; He- man*; Hee -Haw (name of old country music & comedy show - also a term for a country rube);
[135] - help - whelp; kelp;
[67] - her ~hearse; hermaphrodite; hermit; Hercules; Hearst (William Randolph); herd ( a herd of hers!); Hermes;
[72] - him ~hymn*; hem*; ham;
[19] - his ~ hiss (cat hissing); Hermann Hesse; Rudolf Hess;
[487] - hot - hot pants; hotties; hut; thot (that ho’ over there);hot potato; Hottentot; hot pepper;
[46] - how - Howard the Duck; Howard (Cosell); Howard (Hughes); howl (wolf howling); Indian warrior greeting “How”;

[18] - I ~ aye aye; eyeball; glass eye; (suggestion -use “glass eye” for “I” and ''eyeball" for “eye”;
[55] -if ~ Eiffel Tower; elf;
[6] - in ~ inn; motel; hen*;
[7] - is ~ Isis (terrorist idiots) or (goddess); Izzy: Liz: lizard;
[8] - it ~ Cousin It (Addam’s Family); Clown (from S. king’s novel “IT”);

[129] Just ~ Justices; Lady Justice; Justin Bieber;

[89] - know ~ canoe; snow*;

[64] - Like ` lick; Ike (Eisenhower - “I like Ike”); dike;
[137] - line - What’s my Line; clothes line; coke line;
[113] - little - Stuart Little; litter; liter; Little Big Man;
[109] - live - liver; Live- live T.V. reporter;;
[68] - long - Long John Silver; lung; lung fish;
[75] - look ~ Lucky Luke; Look magazine; binoculars;
[136] low - Sweet & Low (artificial sweetner -the pink pack one); Lowe(Rob); Lowe’s (giant box hardware store chain);

[108] - made - maid*; maiden; Maid Marian(Robin Hood’s main squeeze,);
[69] - make ~ Maker (from Dune); Maker’s Mark ( a good Bourbon whiskey); a Big Mac; Mack Truck;
[116] - man - man; a manly man; mannequin;
[ 59] - many - Minnie Mouse; minnie ball; mini dress; minion; minivan; minnow; Moonies;
[95] - may -May Pole; May Day parade; maid*; mayfly;
[122] - me ~ meal; opera singer (singing "me me me’’…and she’s fat and sing’s last);
[142] - mean - mean girls; meanies;
[76] - more ~ lawn mower; moor; Moors; Moore (Thomas);
[85] - most- mast; moose;
[144] - move - movie; movie projector;
[131] - much - mulch; munch, munchies; munchkin;
[82] - my ~ myna (bird), Maya Angelou; Mayan;

[126] - name - lame; Nemo;
[102] - new - nude; new penny(shiny);
[84] - no ~ Dr. No; a toddler stomping his feet and yelling “NO!”);
[30] - not ~ knot; Don Knott; Fort Knox; slip knot;
[99] - now ~ Noah; N.O.W. (Women protesters burning their bras);
[86] - number - Limburger cheese; NUNs on ice BERg; Nuremberg Trails;

[2] - of ~ oven; dove; glove;
[147] - old -gold; mold; Old Father Williams,( and standing on his head);
[14] - on ~ onion; switch(on light switch); iron (clothes iron); Iron (Man);
[23] - one ~ Juan (Don Juan); wand;
[114] - only ~ Puff the Magic Dragon(…in land called Honah Lee); ornery; horny, honey*;
[27] - or ~ ore; oar; ruins of orr;
[38] - other - otter, udder;(cow’s);
[124] - our ~ hour glass; owl*;
[37] - out ~ outhouse; umpire shouting “You’re OUT!”; Lady Macbeth (Out damn spot!);
[88] - over -oven*; overcoat(on a dude with nothing else on!); Judy Garland(Dorthy) singing "somewhere over the rainbow’;

[104] - part - part(in hair); fart (parts the crowd); peeing art ( make “p” to peeing ,then take “art”);
[94] - people - peeing on a pole; apples peeing(apple juice?); apple people; a pea on top a pole and a princess sleeping restless on top of it;
[107] - place - plate (place setting); palace;
[158] - play - play dough; player ( a Casanova);

[145] - right - Mr. Right, Wright Brothers(and their plane); “You’re Bloody Damn Right…”;
[115] - round ( a bullet); round-robin; round table (Knights of the … );

[47] - said - sled; Sid (Ceasar); sad (sad clown); Sid(Vicious);
[141] - same - shame, Shane; Sam (I am);
[134] - say ~ Satan*; Marquis de Sade; suede (blue suede shoes… Elvis?);
[71] - see ~ seal; (Navy Seal) seal(animal); sea; sea weed* (kelp); seed; see-saw;
[151] - sentence - Santana (Carlos); singing tents; sentries;
[152] - set - a tennis set; (2players competing); stage set; chess set;
[50] - she ~ shepherd; She-Ra(Princess of Power) sheep;
[119] - show - Broadway Show; snow; a Broadway show done by snowmen-(it’s a snow show stopper!);
[97] - side - a slide(kid’s or a ruler); sliders(little hamburgers); side of fries ( or Fry from Teen Aqua Hunger Force);
[159] - small - Biggie Smalls; The Incredible Shrinking man;
[65] - so ~ sew, sewing, snow*;
[32] - some - sum (of the equation); slum; slump pump;
[83] - sound - sounder; hound; Hound of Baskerville; sonar;

[105] - take- Taken(movie with Liam Neeson); steak, stake;; cake(take the cake and run…with Liam Neeson giving chase!);
[150] - tell (William); telephone; the telly (T.V.); tell(cash register);
[91] - than - van; hand*;; hand with a cross stuck in it; fan; Afghan ( shawl or dog… or both);
[10] - that ~ Thatcher (Margaret); thot* (ho’); holy hat ("t’ is the cross on top of the hat); phat(sexy girl);
[1] - the ~ theater; drop the “t” and get he-- and use He-Man; tea; thug; tee(golf thingy);
[53] - their ~ Truth or Dare; heir;
[61] - them - thumb (hitch hike); hymn; hem (of dress- with little crosses dangling from the end of the hem);
[60] - then ~ Thin Man; hen* Ken (Barbie’s);
[34] - there ~ dare devil; hare;(hare with a cross … Holy hare);
[60] - these - bees (many of them) “dez nuts” (famous saying loved by teenage boys); a tease; ((a girl despised by teenage boys);
[20] - they - Dey (Susan); hay; cross -t- on a pile of hay ( holy hay);
[70] - thing ~ Thing (Fantastic Four); ding-a- ling: The Thing (from the movie-for the plural form of thing -things);
[133] - think ~The Thinker(Rodin’s); sink; finch; fink; Barton Fink
;[25] - this ~ thistle; cobra hissing ( t is the shape of a risen cobra - and it’s hissing);
[153] - three - use your symbol for 3, throne; triplets;
[128] - through - throne; throng; tunnel (to go through a …);
[54] - time ~ time machine; a dime with a tiny clock on it; alarm clock with large ringing bells on it; slime;
[2] - to ~tomato*; tutu*; glue*; tooth*; toot*;
[148] - too ~ glue*; tutu*; tomato*; tooth*; tuba; tube;
[139] - turn - turd*; tern; Turner; (Tina) or (Edward);
[73] - two ~ use your image for 2; tuba*; shoe; twins; Siamese twins; tutu*; glue*;

[125] - under ~ underwear; underpants; udder*;
[43] - up ~ Up (animated movie); a street sign point upwards, and everything up is floating upwards; throw up*;
[44] - use - Jews;; Uzi (machine gun);

[127] - very - Vera (from Brit T.V. detective series); vermin;

[154] - want - wonton soup; wonk; wanton person;
[12] - was ~ wasp; wuss; coward; Fuzzy Wuzzy; rust; wet donkey ( "w= wet and “as” = ass = donkey);
[96] - water - water (glass of, drop of); waiter; Walter Conkrite; Walt Disney
[57] - way- wave (giant wave); large crowd doing “The Wave”; Milky Way (our galaxy); Milky Way (candy bar);
[35] - we ~ weeping willow; we-we; peeing;
[156] - well- well (wishing or old fashioned one); oil well; Wells ( H.G. or Olson);
[39] - were ~ were-wolf*; weirdo, worm*;
[33] - what ~ watt (light bulb); Watson (Dr. or Mr.) wet hat (‘w’ stands for wet and add ‘hat to it);
[42] - when ~ Wayne (from Wayne’s World); John Wayne; wet hen ("w’ = wet, and add “hen” to it);
[110] - where - wares; warehouse; were-wolf*;
[51] - which ~ witch; switch ( used to whip & chase bad little children with ); wrench; wench;
[87] - who ~ owl*; Dr. Who; The Who (Rock band); Horton (Hears a Who!);
[56] - will ~ Wilkinson blade; Last Will & Testament; Will Robinson (from T.V. show “Lost in Space”);
[16] - with ~ withered; width ~ (make image very wide) whip;
[45] - word - Bible (The Word); perv; turd*:
[103] - work - wok; wreck; shipwreck;
[62] - would ~ wood; wooden world (or globe) Woody Woodpecker); wood pile; woodchuck;
[63] - write - rite dye (wet rite dye); last rites;

[117] - year - ear; ear (with ear ring);
[9] - you ~ ewe; U-turn street sign; You Tube; Ubik; Uber;
[41] - your ~ yore (picture knight in suit of armor; yolk(egg) York Peppermint Patty) yoke (on ox);

This should be complete. There is 161 words on this list -the first 160 most common words, as found on I also included “hot” which was listed as #487,but also listed as #30,which is probably “not”. The mnemonic images used came from a list by tarnation(post #9), a list from Memory Techniques Wiki, and lastly, what I could come up with myself, …which makes me reflect on the story George Foreman told on himself about fighting Muhammad Ali, that after he punched Ali as hard as he could, Ali whispered dismissively into Foreman’s ear, “Is that all you got boy?”, and Foreman said to himself, "That is ALL I’ve got!).

So this is what I could do. I hope that it’ll be of some use to others.
Even though this list represents more than half the amount of the total of words spoken and written every day, I hope to eventually make an upgrade to this list that will include another several hundred more common abstract words, mainly verbs and irregular verbs, which I think will make this list even more usefull for verbatim memorization.


This is a very interesting thread. I am very pleased to see people trying to define pre-established substitute words because this is one of my main interests right now. The problem is that I am trying to do it the hardest way possible and, for now, I am going nowhere.

I want images to be related to the meaning of the words, but this is really hard to accomplish, specially if one needs to attain to the mnemonic principles of extravagant, striking images. Now, when I imagine “at-at” for “at” or “goose” for “down”, I can’t help but think these are awesome images for such abstract concepts. How to beat that?

Anyway, I have a more concrete question that assails me constantly. What if we need to memorise sentences which words are used in our mnemonic list? In other words, what if our sentence-to-be-memorised is (somehow) talking about Margaret Thatcher, Jews and the Bible (“the”, “use” and “word”, respectively, according to tarnation/Thom’s list)? Would we have different images for Thatcher, Jews and the Bible in spite of the fact that we had chosen them in the first place because of their concreteness (or whatever other aspect)? Or should we use some kind of “marker” in the image to show that they should be understood “literally” instead of metaphorically?

I hope I’ve made myself understood… Thanks!


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Just to “fan the flames” a bit, imagine that we take the taunting task of finding a substitute word for EVERY word in the English vocabulary (and succeed): such overlap between to-be-memorised words and mnemonic images would be unavoidable and constant. What to do then?

Moreover, there are lots of homonyms (words with the same spellings but different meanings) in the language. So, we find a substitute word based on sound resemblance (as close to a homophone as possible), but we want to convey different meanings: how to cope with that? OK, use context like we do to disambiguate homonyms, you might argue. And I must agree. But if we are creating a new language of some sort – a mental one – do we need to keep the same caveats of our spoken one? This is one of the reasons I want to use meaning instead of sound, to have mnemonic images that can be unequivocally decoded.

Very difficult stuff, but fascinating nevertheless.

To understand word frequency, see Zipf’s Law.


I don’t have much time today to respond to Mnemoriam’s remarks and questions, but they are good ones. I’ll try to get back to you by Monday or so.
Truly, part of what I’m trying to do here is underlined by Zipf’s Law.

Also, my image for “from” is “frog”, but I would never confuse it for a real frog, because I have the image of it as being the drawing by Andy Wahole’s(sic) tree frog drawing in his endangered wildlife series. Just as ‘and’ is “hand”, but the specific one in the Addam’s Family T.V. show, and would not be confused with an image for the word “hand”…
Got to go… Gods willing,… back later.

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Hi Thom,

Thanks for the effort in responding. I know you are not there right now, but you will be back eventually… “Gods willing”…, so I’d like to make a quick comment/question.

If you used Andy Wahole’s frog (BTW, thanks for pointing me to it, great picture! What a nice “red”…) and Adam Family’s Thing for, respectively, the images of “from” and “and”, you did so because they are striking and memorable (and I’d agree). But, then, I ask you: whenever you want to memorise a fact containing a frog and/or a hand (the actual ones), don’t you need the corresponding images to also be striking and memorable? If so, they can’t just be “normal” frogs and hands being nonchalantly placed somewhere in your image; they should be vivid and crazy and impressive and wonderfully memorable!

What to do then? Should we create two sets of images for each concept? Or, again, should we use markers? Or should we trust context and/or our natural memory?



I think this is a wonderful project and great mental exercise.

However, it is possible to memorize lines of poetry - even in languages you don’t know - without linking each and every word to an image.

For me, as nice as it sometimes seem to have rigid designators, in practice it rarely works. I have the same thing with cards, which is why QC, for example, has more than one image. Depending where she falls, it’s more convenient to have her as a chain wrapped around someone’s neck. Otherwise, a figure with double chins works better. Flexibility is always key.

Likewise in memorizing poetry. If “and” or “with” always had to be represented by a particular image, there would be trouble because:

  1. Usually the logical flow “forces” you to use the correct word by default

  2. If a filler/connector word needs an image, it will typically work best in the contextual flow of the other associative-image.

For example:

Of Peleus’ son Achilles,
Sing O Muse the vengeance
Deep and Deadly
Whence to Greece
Unnumbered ills arose

I’m almost certainly not obeying Dryden the translators line breaks because I didn’t memorize them - but the point is that almost none of those words have one-to-one correspondences and there are zero images for “of,” “and,” “to” or “whence.” Thanks to the flow of the vignette and the forward momentum of the Memory Palace journey I used for these lines, mnemonics for this words simply isn’t necessary.

Even with foreign language poetry memorization, this lack of necessity has in most cases proved true for me. It’s also almost always helpful to leave some blanks spots and trust your mind to fill them in. Many competitors have given this advice and Ben Pridmore talked about it recently on a video interview he gave Ron White. I think that principle of trusting your mind to fill in certain blanks rather than trying to have it all is one of the best advices anyone can give other current and would-be mnemonists.

Try to capture it all on a one-to-one correspondence basis when it comes to verbatim text and you risk spending way too much time with unnecessarily limited outcomes.

Playing cards and numbers are a different story, but then again, outside of competition settings, who on earth wants to listen to people recite that kind of information. As impressive as it is, such demonstrations outside of competition don’t even make for particularly interesting viewing, nor to do they help people instantly see how they could memorize information that might actually improve their lives.

But demonstrations of memorizing poetry - or better yet complex definitions/foreign language phrases, etc. … now that is something more people can connect to. More of us should be doing that to inspire more faith in mnemonics and inspiring new mnemonists to join the current Mnemonics Renaissance.

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To Mnemoriam in regards to your last posting, the answer to your questions is - yes.

To Metiver , I agree with your points, but don’t forget ,that by making “of”,“and”, and “to”, into “glove”, 'hand", and “tomato” (for example), it is easier to remember the poem in your posting, either by association in context, or by seeing it as a list of random words and tying them together.

Remember, the logic of this excersize for mnemonics is to help you utilize the several hundred words that compose over 50% of the word mass used daily in the English language.

What you do with it from there is up to you…certain situations may call for certain response one day, and another the next,… just like when you’re with your woman, one day you do something and it’s all fireworks, and the next day you do the same thing, and she say’s "what the he** are YOU doing?..that’s when you try something else…same thing on this guys.

YO … if any of you guys out there (and gals), have any mnemonic images for some of these words on the list, please feel free to send them to me.


Well I’ve completed the alphabetical version of this list of mnemonic images for common English words.(Post #16) The first list,(Post#11), the word order was done in order of how often they were used, the alphabetical one was constructed so as to easier find any particular word in the list.

I hope , on a later date, to add to this list several hundred more common words, including the 100 most common verbs ,as well as irregular verbs, but I’m thinking of putting that list into the poetry forum. I welcome any comments or suggestions, although because I’m such a slow typist, I’ll probably not answer(at length, anyways) many questions.

Below, I will list a few words that was on tarnation’s list, but not included in my list of the 160 most common used words in the English language, since tarnation’s list came from the 100 most common words used in modern poetry. I am thinking that I will expand this list so that it includes several different sites’ lists of the most common words(they each contain words not listed in the others, plus the top 100 most common verbs. Right now , I’m working on a list of about 1500 words(which includes the lexemes (lemmas) of around 160 irregular verbs, but this number may be too impractical.
So a list of around 300 to 500 may be more doable. I think also that I will carry this work onto the Poetry forum.
Any thoughts or opinions?

More mnemonic images on words from tarnation’s list:.
am ~ ammo;
away ~ “Hi Yo Silver Away!”- Lone Ranger: Ape surfing on a (large) wave - “A” = Ape = “way” = wave;
because ~ Cosby; bee claws; bees in a car(Or car made of bees); bee Santa Claus;
cant ~ Kant;
don’t ` donut; donkey;
eye ~eye; eye ball;
feel ~ feel up; eel;
heart ~ Valentine’s heart
I’m ~ “I yam what I yam” Popeye;
into ~ inter (bury); 2 inns- or inn#2;
it’s ~ itsy bitsy spider;
Life ~ Life Cereal; Life Magazine; Game of Life;
Love ~ Love American Style; Courtney Love;
never ~ Never Land;
why ~ YMCA;


You guys are awesome! Thanks for your help that I didn’t even ask for!


Thanks to Thom DeTarde for alphabetizing the list! Great job!


Whats the best way to memorize scripture and what people say? Their is no learning without remembering.

Whats the worlds best way for memorzing sentances out of a book while reading. Also for teacher? Couldn’t you paraphrase what your listening or reading then put that into a memory palace or story? I wonder whether a story method of memorizing your paraphrased ununique words would work better? Or a memory palace?