What’s a REBUS?

Turkey is popular not only at Thanksgiving and holiday times, but all year around

REBUS is essentially little picture, often made with letters and words, which cryptically represents a word, phrase, or saying.


One of the most common devices is the positioning of the words and symbols, both relative to the rectangle containing the puzzle, and to the other words and symbols. In the example ONCE is in BLUE MOON, so it is the “once in the blue moon”.


Often attention is drawn to some part of the picture, often by an arrow or underlining, indicating that this is where we should be looking for the clue. For example, there are AID AID AID AID and one arrow pointing to the first AID, and thus the answer is “first aid”.


Closely related to position is direction. When a word is spelled in any direction other than the usual left-to-right it is generally relevant to the solution. For example:







It illustrates “wake up”.


Unusually large or small words or symbols may be used to convey concepts like big, large, small, wide, etc. For example, the letters BIG DEAL in over-sized fonts represent “big deal”.


The device of number is frequently exploited, due to the closeness in sound of 0, 1, 2, 4, 8, 10, etc. to other English words. This cryptic example shows 4 GOT 10 HEROES,

GOT     HERO     HERO     HERO

GOT     HERO     HERO     HERO



and so the answer is “forgotten heroes”.


If a word or symbol is not printed in black, then you can expect the colour to be a relevant in the solution. More difficult rebus puzzles may make use of somewhat more obscure colour names like scarlet or beige. In A fairly easy example the word CHEESE in blue; it is “blue cheese”.


The style of the font is sometimes relevant. It might convey such concepts as tall, pretty, thin, slanted, etc. The fat letters in the example FAT CHANCE lead the puzzler to conclude that the answer is “fat chance”.


Very often rebus puzzles are phonologically cryptic. The sound will not always be exactly like the answer, but it will always be close enough to recognise, as in 1s upon TIME“once upon a time”.

1 1 1 1 1


Let see if you can solve these rebuses. Post your answers in the comment. The first picture has been done for you as an example.

1. Over my dead body — The words dead body is placed on top of (over) the word my.

Answers: 1. Over my dead body 2. Right on the nose 3. See eye to eye 4. Look out for the one 5. Bees 6. Home is where the heart is

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s