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  • Paul Anthony Jones


(n.) a word whose letters can be rearranged to form a different word with the same meaning

metal typesetters letters

Last week we tweeted the fact that a synanagram is a word whose letters can be rearranged to form a different word with the same meaning:

Unsurprisingly, that word is a blend of “synonymous anagram”, and was coined by writer Murray Pearce in a 1971 edition of the popular wordplay magazine Word Ways.

Besides the example we used on Twitter—angered and enraged—other examples of this kind of transposition include adulation and laudation; statement and testament; evil and vile, give or take a little leeway in meaning; and sterilize and Listerize, the latter a word meaning “to treat with the methods of Joseph Lister”, the nineteenth century English surgeon who pioneered modern antiseptic science.

And, of course, there’s always this oddly brilliant bit of word play:

...which has the added bonus of not only being a perfect anagram, but is mathematically sound too as both 12 + 1 and 11 + 2 equal 13.

If the rearranged word doesn’t form a synonym but rather an antonym, however, then what you’re dealing with is an antigram—like united and untied: well as filled and ill-fed; indeed and denied; ruthful and hurtful; stained and sainted; and fluster and restful. And so long as we’re allowing that twelve plus one example from above, the fact that forty-five can be rearranged to spell over fifty perhaps should make this list too.

Understandably, examples of synanagrams and antigrams are fairly hard to come by in English. As a result, a majority of them are fairly flippant (adultery = true lady), comic (Satan = Santa), or else rely on phrases or sentences being created rather than single words (infernos = non-fires; honestly = on the sly; misfortune = it’s more fun; nominated = not named).

So we’ll leave it up to you to decide whether HMS Pinafore is an appropriate synanagram of “name for ship”, and whether the fact that the word maidenly can be rearranged to spell “men daily” counts as an antigram...


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