How to Solve Rebus Puzzles

What are Rebus Puzzles?

A rebus is a visual word puzzle that uses the positioning of words, letters, and/or symbols to represent a common phrase, sometimes in an indirect or tricky manner. They are sometimes referred to as “hidden meaning” puzzles.

Here are some common things to look for that can help you solve rebus puzzles. Happy decoding!


Positioning

The positioning of words and letters relative to each other is often used to replace a word or part of a word.

So if you see words or letters placed in unusual arrangements, think about what words that appear in common phrases could describe that positioning. This could include “on,” “above,” “below,” “down,” “between,” and many more.

Try it Out

Use what you just learned about positioning of words in rebuses and try this fun rebus.


Highlighting

There may be an arrow, circle, or square highlighting one part of the rebus, which is often a clue pointing to an adjective to describe the word shown.

So if you see any emphasis on certain words or letters, think about how to describe that emphasis in the context of a common phrase.


Font Properties

Displaying the word in a different color, size, direction, or style is likely a clue to an adjective or verb to pair with that word.

Try it Out

Use what you just learned about fonts in rebuses and try this fun rebus.


Homophones

To be clever or tricky, rebuses sometimes lead you to a word that sounds like (but is not spelled like) another word or part of another word. Tougher and more creative rebuses use this quite often.

There’s no trick to solving these, but now that you know it’s possible, you’ll know that sometimes you have to think outside of the box and maybe try saying things out loud.


Repetition

Some rebuses contain multiples of words, and the number of times the word appears can usually be interpreted as a word or part of a word in the phrase. The number is sometimes replaced with like-sounding words (see homophones above) in the phrase.

Try it Out

Use what you just learned about repetition in rebuses and try this tough rebus.


Context and Clues

There are many, many more ways a puzzle designer can cleverly represent a a hidden meaning. Some more challenging rebus puzzles may include words that are there just to provide context, or you may have to replace a word with a synonym. You will usually know when you get the right answer to a well-designed rebus, so think creatively and keep trying – deciphering the clues is why rebuses are fun!


Still having trouble? Try some easy rebus puzzles to warm up and start thinking in the right direction.

4 Comments

  1. Hi I’m still confused I’m a student at level middle school in Southfield my eight hour teacher has been teaching us this in class but I still do not understand

    • Hi! Which part are you confused by? A rebus is just showing a message without writing it out plainly, using other methods like putting words on top of each other instead of writing out the word “on.” Hopefully the examples in this article can give you a couple of ideas how to guess the message.

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