Mnemonic peg system

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A Peg system is a technique for memorizing lists. It works by pre-memorizing a list of words that are easy to associate with the numbers they represent (1 to 10, 1-100, 1-1000, etc.). Those objects form the "pegs" of the system. Then in the future, to rapidly memorize a list of arbitrary objects, each one is associated with the appropriate peg. Generally, a peglist only has to be memorized one time, and can then be used over and over every time a list of items needs to be memorized.

The peglists are generated from words that are easy to associate with the numbers (or letters). Peg lists created from letters of the alphabet or from rhymes are very simple to learn, but are limited in the number of pegs they can produce. The Major System is often used to create pegs. While it is more complicated to learn than simple rhymes or alphabetic pegs, it is limitless in the number of pegs it can produce. Furthermore, a recent modification to the Major System introduces the concept of dimensions,[1] which increases the size of the list by a factor of ten with the addition of each new dimension.

Some authors classify lists of items in a room, or list of rooms in the house as well as their contents, as peg lists but prefer to treat these as part of the method of loci. However, in every respect, the concepts underlying the two systems are identical: in each, a new piece of information gets pegged to something that is already known.

Henry Herdson is credited with developing the mnemonic peg system[2] in his short 1651 work "Ars Memoriae; the Art of Memory Made Plaine," Lectio V, reprinted in full in Gregor von Feinaigle's 1812 Art of Memory[3]

Peg Lists[edit]

A rhyming example[edit]

  • 1-gun Visualize the first item being fired from a gun
  • 2-shoe Visualize an association between the second thing and a shoe
  • 3-tree Visualize the third item growing from a tree
  • 4-door Visualize the 4th item associated with a door
  • 5-hive Visualize the fifth item associated with a hive or with bees
  • 6-bricks Visualize the sixth item associated with bricks
  • 7-heaven Visualize the seventh item associated with heaven
  • 8-weight (or height) Visualize the 8th item on a weight (or height) as if you are heavy (or high)
  • 9-wine Visualize a glass containing the 9th item
  • 10-hen Visualize the 10th item associated with a chicken.

For example to remember the following grocery list of 10 items:

  • Apple: Picture an apple being fired from a gun
  • Butter: Picture yourself stomping up and down on a stick of butter
  • Razor Blades: Picture a tree with razor blades for leaves
  • Soap: Picture a door made from soap
  • Bread: Picture bees flying from a loaf of bread as if it is a hive
  • Milk: Picture a brick house with milk jugs where the bricks should be
  • Cat food: Picture an open can of cat food with angel wings and a halo
  • Bacon: Picture bacon on a plate
  • Batteries: Picture a wine glass filled with batteries
  • Orange juice: Picture a hen being squeezed, and orange juice coming out

Rhyme may also help with memorizing a peglist. Here is another example that includes an element of rhyme:

  • one is won
  • two sits too
  • three for free
  • four on the floor
  • five is alive
  • six on sticks
  • seven in heaven
  • eight comes late
  • nine down a mine
  • ten in a pen

Shape example[edit]

Based on the shape of the digits.

  • 1-candle, straw, pencil, streetlamp, stick, leg, lighthouse, finger
  • 2-swan, duck, goose, flamingo
  • 3-sideways handlebar mustache, camel's hump (on a top), worm, snake, ostrich, butterfly, double chin, lips, heart, handcuffs, two hooks
  • 4-sail, flag, camel's legs,
  • 5-meat hook, cymbal and drum, wheelchair, pulley, sea horse
  • 6-cherry, snail house, elephant's trunk, pipe, ram's horn, giraffe's neck (lifted right), golf club, combination lock, whistling device, cannon
  • 7-cliff, hammer, boomerang, axe, scythe, gun, giraffe
  • 8-snowman, hourglass, spectacles, two plates, two donuts, two buns, wheels of skate, winding key, shapely woman, two balls
  • 9-balloon, hunting horn, lollipop, tadpole, tennis racket, comma (filled-in)
  • 10-road sign and ball, lamppost with light, stick and donut, bat and ball, knife and plate

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bremer, Rod. The Manual - A guide to the Ultimate Study Method (USM) (Amazon Digital Services).
  2. ^ Higbee, Kenneth L. Your Memory: How it Works and How to Improve It (Second ed.). Da Capo Press. p. 158. ISBN 978-1-56924-629-0. 
  3. ^ The New Art of Memory, founded upon the principles taught by M. Gregor von Feinaigle, and applied to Chronology, History, Geography, Languages, Systematic Tables, Poetry, Prose, and Arithmetic. To which is added some account of the principal systems of artificial memory, from the earliest period to the present time; with instances of the extraordinary powers of natural memory, London, 1812; 2nd and 3rd editions, with numerous additions, and a portrait of Feinaigle, 1813. (pp 297-298)

External links[edit]

Making pegs from rhymes:

Making pegs from shapes:

Alphabet Pegs:

Major system peg list