What Is Anagram?

An anagram is jumbled up letters of a word or phrase that spell out another word or phrase. For instance,  “the earthquakes” becomes “the queer shakes” or “dormitory” becomes “dirty room.”

The goal of an anagram is to rearrange the letters so that they reflect creatively on the original word. A clever (but perhaps unfair) anagram for William Shakespeare is “I am a weakish speller.” It’s true; Shakespeare spelled words creatively. However, there was no standardized spelling in the sixteenth century, so he was in good company!

How Do You Identify an Anagram in Writing?

There are fairly few examples of a literary anagram. In Nabokov’s novel Lolita, one character is named “Vivian Darkbloom,” which is an anagram for Vladimir Nabokov himself. J.K. Rowling uses the anagram “I am Lord Voldemort” for another villain, Tom Marvolo Riddle, to illustrate that they are one and the same.

If you can find the anagram, it means you are a very careful reader. But identifying an anagram is unlikely to contribute much to a literary analysis; they are really just a clever form of wordplay.

Anagram Examples

Anagram Examples 1. “Mother-in-law” becomes “woman hitler.”

Anagram Examples 2. “Punishment” is “nine thumps.”

Anagram Examples 3. “Desperation” equals “A rope ends it.”

Anagram Examples 4. “A decimal point” becomes “A dot in place.”

Anagram Examples 5. “A carton of cigarettes” = “I got a taste for cancer.”

Anagram Examples 6. “Stone age” becomes “stage one.”

Anagram Examples 7. “Metamorphosis” “promises a moth.”


(View all literary devices)