• A pattern, rhyme, image, acrostic, or other such trick to help one remember and understand something


  • Assisting in memory or understanding
  • Connected to or characteristic of memory


Remember this: a mnemonic is a useful device or trick that can aid in memory!

Either in its noun form or as an adjective (usually in conjunction with the word device), a mnemonic highlights the key concept of a body of information one is trying to memorize and sums it up in a neat, unique little pattern that both reinforces its meaning and makes it easy to remember. What makes mnemonics helpful is that they present difficult concepts or large amounts of information in a way that is easy to retain. Such a tool can take a wide variety of forms, but some of the most common include rhymes, acrostic words (in which each letter in the word stands for a key component of the information), funny or stand-out images, visual patterns, and mantras. Some mnemonics are well known - for instance, most grade-schoolers learn a variation of ROY G BIV, an acrostic that is supposed to help one remember the colors of the rainbow. However, much like memory itself, most mnemonics are highly individualized, created by the learner in such a way that meshes with his or her own style of thinking and past experiences. Whether individualized or common knowledge, though, these tricks are especially useful in classrooms and among students who are faced with a large body of information or new, arcane concepts.

A secondary, somewhat less common use of mnemonic is as an adjective to describe something that is in some way related to memory in general. However you choose to use it, though, remember that the first "M" in the word is silent!

Example: The National Spelling-Bee champion credited his success to his mnemonic prowess.

Example: A mnemonic device I use to help me remember the meaning of the word flummox is an image of a very confused bullock.

Derivative Words

Technically, mnemonic is a derivative word of mnemonics, rather than the other way around, but who has the patience to remember such semantics? Anyway, mnemonics describes the practice of cultivating one's memory or of developing a tool to aid in retention.

Example: Hoping to ward off senility, Jonah enrolled in an online course that promised to educate him in mnemonics.


We have our Mediterranean philos to thank for the term mnemonic! Some of this term's earliest ancestors include the Greek words memne, a term for "memory" or "record," and mnemonikos, an adjective which means "characteristic of or related to memory." The latter is a close cognate of the English word mnemonics, a term that describes the process of working with or committing something to memory and from which mnemonic was developed. The adjective form of mnemonic has been in use in English since the mid-eighteenth century to describe something as being helpful to memory, and its use as a noun initiated during the latter part of the nineteenth century.

In Literature

From Rubem Fonseca's The Enemy:

I do a lot of thinking, which always happens before I lie down, when I lock the doors to the house. That gets me extremely irritated because when I go back to bed, despite the mnemonic exercises I use to be sure I've locked the doors and windows, doubt assails me and I have to get up again.

Here, mnemonic exercises refer to the tricks the narrator does to remember all the things he has to do - even though his obsessive thoughts render them redundant.


  • A good mnemonic is a memory trick!
  • Memory Tonic: Mnemonic


Memory, Learning

Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of mnemonic. Did you use mnemonic in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.