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A peg system is a mnemonic 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.

Peg Lists

A rhyming example

  • 1-gun Visualize the first item being fired from a gun
  • 2-shoe Visualize an association between the second thing and shoes
  • 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-plate Visualize the 8th item on a plate as if it is food
  • 9-line Visualize yourself fishing with the 9th item on your line
  • 10-hen Visualize the 10th item associated with a chicken.

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

  • Milk: Picture a stream of milk being fired from a gun
  • Eggs: Picture an egg wearing shoes
  • Butter: Picture sticks of butter growing from a tree
  • Bread: Picture a door made from bread
  • Catsup: Picture bees flying from a catsup bottle
  • Beer: Picture a brick house with beer cans where the bricks should be
  • Toilet paper: Imagine A roll of TP with angel wings and a halo
  • Soap: Picture a bar of soap on a plate- yum
  • Razor blades: Picture yourself reeling in a razor blade as if it's a fish
  • Batteries: Picture a mechanical hen that runs on batteries

If this sounds obscure, close your eyes and try to remember the grocery list you just read. You may be surprised.

A peg list derived from the Mnemonic major system

Here is a list that is derived from the Mnemonic major system To understand the connection between the pegs and the numbers they represent, it is necessary to first learn that system. Without doing so, this list may be difficult to memorize:

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
- saw tie knee ham hair hill jaw key waif pie
10 toes toad teen dime tire tile ditch tack TV tape
20 nose nut nun enema nair nail hinge neck knife knob
30 mouse moat man mime mayor mail match mic movie mop
40 rice rat rhino ram error roll roach rake roof rope
50 lasso lid lion lamb liar lily leech lock leaf leap
60 cheese cheetah chain jam jar jewel judge jock chief jeep
70 case cat cone comb car coal couch cake coffee cap
80 face foot fan foam afro file fish fig fife VP
90 peas bat bone bomb beer ball peach pig beehive pipe

Extend the Peg list

Depending on how your peglist was constructed, you may run out of possible pegwords. Rhyming peglists, while very simple to learn can become ambiguous beyond 10 (as 11 rhymes with 7). Alphabetic peglists run out of possibilities after 26 objects. Often a secondary system is needed to keep the words that rhyme with 22 for example from being confused with 32. This could be accomplished by using attributes such as colors, sylable counts, etc.

Major system peglists do not have this limitation, as word or phrases can be threaded through any set of numbers. toast would be unambiguous for 101, 102 could be design or teasing, 301 could be mist, must,or mast, and so on. If you have memorized a pegword list based on the major system (such as the chart shown above), then it advised to learn the major system, and make up your own pegwords if you run out.

Advanced uses which combine peg systems with the Mnemonic major system

In addition to generating pegs, the major system can also be used to convert numbers into easy-to-visualize words. These words can then be treated like objects and associated with pegs to memorize charts and tables.


In several of his books, Harry Lorayne describes a double peg-system that can be used to quickly memorize an entire deck of cards. One peglist is for the numbers 1 through 52, and the other is for the cards. The card pegs are constructed with the first letter of the peg coming from the suit name and the following sound from the card's number (1 through 9, 0 for 10, and special rules for face cards) For example if the pegword for 7 is "cow" and the pegword for the 5 of hearts is "hell" one could picture a cow in hell to know that 5 of hearts is 7th in the deck.

Periodic table

The periodic table provides an example of just how well-structured this memorized information can become.

Using a peglist for the numbers 1 through 118, these pegs can be associated with the names of the elements (or with a pun on their symbols). If the pegword for 76 is "coach" then it is easy to remember that osmium's atomic number is 76 by imagining Ozzy Osbourne as a coach. If your peg for 86 is fish, you could remember that radon's atomic number is 86 by visualizing a radioactive fish. With the Mnemonic major system this can be expanded further to include the atomic masses. You could picture a disappointed fisherman looking at the glowing 3-eyed fish he just caught and yelling "NO!NO!NO!" about his "sad catch" to remember that radon has a mass of 222.0176 (no no no sad catch)

External links

Making pegs from rhymes:

Making pegs from shapes:

Alphabet Pegs:

Major system peg list

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