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A mnemonic (SAMPA /n@'mAnIk/ in US or /n@'mQnIk/ in UK) is a memory aid. Mnemonics are often verbal, are sometimes in verse form, and are often used to remember lists. Mnemonics rely not only on repetition to remember facts, but also on creating associations among easy-to-remember constructs and lists of data. The word mnemonic shares etymology with Mnemosyne, the name of the titan who personified Memory in Greek mythology.

Table of contents
1 Examples of simple mnemonics
2 More complex mnemonic techniques
3 History of mnemonics
4 External links

Examples of simple mnemonics

One common mnemonic device for remembering lists consists of an easily remembered word, phrase, or rhyme whose initials or other characteristics are associated with the list items.

A curious characteristic of many memory systems is that mnemonic devices work despite being (or possibly because of being) illogical, arbitrary, and artistically flawed. "Roy" is a legitimate first name, but there is no actual surname "Biv" and of course the middle initial "G" is arbitrary. Why is "Roy G. Biv" easy to remember? Medical students never forget the arbitrary nationalities of the Finn and German. Any two of the three months ending in -ember would fit just as euphoniously as September and November in "Thirty days hath...", yet most people can remember the rhyme correctly for a lifetime after having heard it once, and are never troubled by doubts as to which two of the -ember months have thirty days. A bizarre arbitrary association may stick in the mind better than a logical one.

More complex mnemonic techniques

A mnemonic technique is one of many memory aids that is used to create associations among facts that make it easier to remember these facts. Popular mnemonic techniques include mind mapping and peg lists. These techniques make use of the power of the visual cortex to simplify the complexity of memories. Thus simpler memories can be stored more efficiently. For example, a number can be remembered as a picture. This makes it easier to retrieve it from memory. Mnemonic techniques should be used in conjunction with active recall to actually be beneficial. For example, it is not enough to look at a mind map; one needs to actively reconstruct it in one's memory.

Other methods for remembering arbitrary numbers or number sequences use numerological (lit. number+word) systems such as the abjad, where each numeral is represented by a consonant sound.

An example of a widely used system for memorizing numbers as words is the major system.

Number rhyme system

This is an example of a "peg list". It is useful for remembering ordered lists, especially for people with strong auditory learning styles. The following numbered list is static. Note the rhyme of the digit and the word (one/bun, two/glue, and so on). The items you wish to remember should be associated with each word. A similar system utilizing a combination of this and the preceding "abjad" system can easily yield numbers through 100 or higher (ex. 76 lash, 77 lilly)

  1. bun
  2. glue
  3. tea
  4. door
  5. hive
  6. bricks
  7. heaven
  8. slate
  9. line
  10. pen

Egg and spear or number shape system

This is another peg system, much like the number-rhyme system but more suitable for those with visual learning styles (a one looks like a candle; a two looks like a swan, and so on).

  1. Candle, spear
  2. Swan
  3. Bosom
  4. Sail
  5. Hook
  6. Club
  7. Cliff
  8. Sand clock
  9. Flag
  10. Egg

Other mnemonic systems

History of mnemonics

The Ars memoriae (art of memory) practised in the
Classical, Medieval, and Renaissance periods relied on the capacity of the brain for recalling spatial detail. The principle was to initially memorise some large building, the more architectural elaboration of rooms, passages and niches it had the better — the so-called 'Memory Palace'. Mnemonic images could be placed about this palace to link to items that you wanted to remember, ususally in symbolic form, with the images as striking as possible to enable recollection. To recall something, the practitioner mentally moved around the palace, reviewing the images in order. This was an essential technique of rhetoricians and preachers.

A reference to this technique survives to this day in the common English phrases "in the first place", "in the second place", and so forth.

External links

The following links contain additional information, some of which could be added to this or related pages. Some link to additional pages; it might be helpful add those links here: