Peg Words Introduction

by thememorypage

2.1 • Introduction

Peg Words

Peg are useful for remembering a name given only a number or for memorizing numbered lists of items.

In the “How to Improve Your Memory” tutorial, you learned how to memorize numbers by converting them to words which can be pictured and remembered easily. This works well when you want to recall a number given something else:


Given my friend Jim, I might want to recall his phone number. But using the usual method you can’t very easily recall something given only the number. For phone numbers, this isn’t a problem, because rarely do we see a phone number on a piece of paper and we want to recall whose it is. But for other things, it might be very useful: area codes, football jersey numbers, etc.

This is where the peg word system comes in useful. It allows you to recall both a number given a name and a name given a number.

The secret is this..

Instead of coming up with an arbitrary word for a number, you use a specific word every time. When you want to remember something given only the number, you recall the specific peg word for the number, then proceed to remember what name was associated with the peg word.

The system is probably most useful for memorizing long, numbered lists.

Lists, by the way, can be memorized by “linking” words together in a long chain, like this:

Canada -> USA -> Mexico -> Belize -> Guatemala -> El Salvador

For short lists, this is actually the most desirable method. Simply form an animated picture in your mind linking the objects, and you’ve memorized the list very easily!


You might think of a can (Canada) on the sidewalk. Uncle Sam (USA) walks along and practically trips on the can. He goes to a Texaco (Mexico) gas station to call for a doctor. While he’s waiting, he feels the cool evening breeze (Belize). Etc.!

What if, though, you had a longer list? In order to remember the 15th item, you need to recall the first fourteen, which can take a while. Also, if you forget a word in the middle, the chain is broken and you’ve lost the rest!

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could memorize the list like this instead:

1. Canada    2. USA    3. Mexico    4. Belize    5. Guatemala    6. El Salvador

Now if you want to remember the fifth item, you just need to recall your peg word for the number 5, then remember the country that you associated with that word.

In this country list example, the numbers aren’t too important, but there may be instances where the number isvery important. For example, we might be memorizing the presidents of the United States, the amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the elements in the periodic table or the 50 states in order of population. In these cases, the peg word system becomes even more valuable.

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