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A rebus puzzle from the NBC show, Concentration

The game show Concentration used rebus puzzles as part of the gameplay (once revealed, this rebus solved to 'Buffalo Bill'). Image by rickh710 via flickr.com | Alpha Index to Full Dictionary:

# | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | XYZ


A type of picture puzzle, a rebus uses pictures and sometimes letters to represent words and syllables. A variation, the letter rebus, uses arrangements of letters or words to represent different phrases. At its most basic, a rebus simply substitutes a picture or symbol for a word (such as a picture of a heart for heart or love or an ampersand (&) for and). However the most common form of rebus is a puzzle to be solved and may use a complicated series of images and letter additions or subtractions to encode a message.

Creating and Using a Rebus in Desktop Publishing

Use typographic symbols, dingbats, and fun fonts in one of these ways:

  • Substitute a rebus for an article headline.
  • Make a newsletter nameplate that's actually a rebus puzzle.
  • Use an appropriate rebus as an illustration in a newsletter, brochure, flier.
  • Make a rebus puzzle as a greeting card.
  • Turn your name or business name into a rebus for business cards and letterhead.
  • Use a simple rebus as a logo.

When incorporating a rebus into your project, it can be more visually attractive if you use images or dingbats in a similar style. For letters that are included in your phrase or puzzle, try some fun, playful fonts.

Related types of wordplay or picture use similar to a rebus include the ideogram, emoticon, icon, and pictogram. A rebus can use icons, emoticons, and other such visual metaphors to tell a story or make a puzzle. Not only could the rebus include letter additions (or subtractions) but it could also include textspeak and other forms of word play to convey meaning.

Determine the word, name, or phrase you wish to turn into a rebus. Sometimes you can substitute a single image for a word such as a picture of a can for can or an eye for I, a vehicle jack or a Jack playing card for the name Jack. In some cases you may need to combine symbols with letters (or subtract letters) to form a single word. Use a + (plus) sign to add letters and a - (minus) sign to indicate letters to remove. If using a rebus to create a logo or other image to represent a company, product, or individual consider using symbols that not only create the name but also visually represent the company or product.

  • Use this site to generate a rebus (click on the rebus option) from the text you input. It's not perfect but can get you started.


  • myRebus is another online generator. I didn't have great luck with it but you may do better depending on the words you use.


  • How Do You Make a Rebus Puzzle explains the process and gives a tiny bit of history of this pictogram style.


  • See some Examples of Rebuses which includes stories and puzzles.


  • Browse a large collection of Rebus Rhymes for stories (geared to children) that incorporate images.


  • Create word or letter rebuses like these using fancy fonts and typography.


  • Rebus Illustrations, definition, history, and a fun rebus of "Tutenkhamun."

More rebus definitions and uses: as might be found in crossword puzzles | use an Italian rebus to "help improve your Italian vocabulary" | letter rebuses use specific arrangements letters and words to represent different words or phrases (such as leftoutfield for "out in left field")

Rebus and Graphic Design

"The flawless graphical composition and execution. The colours, line, use of [black] negative space—again it all looks very obvious in hindsight, but the way in which the different images make up a harmonious whole—for me it is quite simply the work of a creative mind at the height of his powers." Graphic Design: What made Paul Rand's IBM rebus poster/logo so famous?
"Symbols function as an 'alphabet of human thought' — a universal means to convey messages without spoken or written words, devoid of educational or language barriers." Graphic Design History: A Symbol Primer


Also Known As: picture puzzle | cryptogram | pictogram | secret writing

Terms Related to Rebus

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