AskDefine | Define mnemonic

Dictionary Definition

mnemonic adj : of or relating to or involved the practice of aiding the memory; "mnemonic device" [syn: mnemotechnic, mnemotechnical]

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from Greek μνημονικός (mnemonikos) “of memory”, itself from μνήμον (mnemon) “remembering, mindful”, from μνάσθαι (mnasthai) “remember”, from Proto-Indo-European root men- “to think” (cognate with mind).


  • /nəˈmɔ.nɪk/, /n@'mQnIk/
  • a US /nəˈmɑːnɪk/, /n@'mAnIk/


  1. Of or related to mnemonics: the study of techniques for remembering anything more easily.


related to mnemonics


  1. Anything (especially something in verbal form) used to help remember something.



Anything (especially something in verbal form) used to help remember something

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Extensive Definition

wikiquotepar English mnemonics
A mnemonic device () is a memory aid. Mnemonics are often verbal, something such as a very short poem or a special word used to help a person remember something, particularly lists. Mnemonics rely not only on repetition to remember facts, but also on associations between easy-to-remember constructs and lists of data, based on the principle that the human mind much more easily remembers insignificant data attached to spatial, personal, or otherwise meaningful information than that occurring in meaningless sequences. The sequences must make sense though; if a random mnemonic is made up, it is not necessarily a memory aid.
The word mnemonic is derived from the Ancient Greek word μνημονικός mnemonikos ("of memory") and is related to Mnemosyne ("remembrance"), the name of the goddess of memory in Greek mythology. Both of these words refer back to μνημα mnema ("remembrance"). The second known reference to mnemonics is the method of loci described in Cicero's De Oratore.
The major assumption is that there are two sorts of memory: the "natural" memory and the "artificial" memory. The former is inborn, and is the one that everyone uses every day. The artificial memory is one that is trained through learning and practicing a variety of mnemonic techniques. The latter can be used to perform feats of memory that are quite extraordinary, impossible to carry out using the natural memory alone.

First letter mnemonics

One common mnemonic for remembering lists consists of an easily remembered word, phrase, or rhyme whose first letters are associated with the list items. Though easy to derive, they are often not as powerful as the classical systems because they do not make use of visualization techniques. The idea lends itself well to memorizing hard-to-break passwords as well.

Arbitrariness of mnemonics

A curious characteristic of many memory systems is that mnemonics work despite being (or possibly because of being) illogical, arbitrary, and artistically flawed. "Roy" is a legitimate first name, but there is no actual surname "Biv" and of course the middle initial "G" is arbitrary. Why is "Roy G. Biv" easy to remember in order to memorise the order that the seven colours of the rainbow appear? ROYGBIV can also be expressed as the almost meaningless phrase "Roy Great Britain the Fourth" again referencing "Roy" but using the GB national code for Great Britain and the Roman numerals for 4, viz: IV. The sentence "Richard of York gave battle in vain" is commonly used in the UK. Any two of the three months ending in -ember would fit just as euphoniously as September and November in "Thirty days hath...", yet most people can remember the rhyme correctly for a lifetime after having heard it once, and are never troubled by doubts as to which two of the -ember months have thirty days. A bizarre arbitrary association may stick in the mind better than a logical one.
One reason for the effectiveness of seemingly arbitrary mnemonics is the grouping of information provided by the mnemonic. Just as US phone numbers group 10 digits into three groups, the name "Roy G. Biv" groups seven colors into two short names and an initial. Various studies (most notably The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two) have shown that the human brain is capable of remembering only a limited number of arbitrary items in working memory; grouping these items into chunks permits the brain to hold more of them in memory.

Assembly mnemonics

In assembly language a mnemonic is a code, usually from 1 to 5 letters, that represents an opcode, a number.
Programming in machine code, by supplying the computer with the numbers of the operations it must perform, can be quite a burden, because for every operation the corresponding number must be looked up or remembered. Looking up all numbers takes a lot of time, and mis-remembering a number may introduce computer bugs.
Therefore a set of mnemonics was devised. Each number was represented by an alphabetic code. So instead of entering the number corresponding to addition to add two numbers one can enter "add".
Although mnemonics differ between different CPU designs some are common, for instance: "sub" (subtract), "div" (divide), "add" (add) and "mul" (multiply).
This type of mnemonic is different from the ones listed above in that instead of a way to make remembering numbers easier, it is a way to make remembering numbers unnecessary (by relying on some external way to tie each mnemonic to a number).

History of mnemonics

See the method of loci.


External links

mnemonic in Bengali: স্মৃতিবর্ধনবিদ্যা
mnemonic in Catalan: Mnemotècnia
mnemonic in Czech: Mnemotechnická pomůcka
mnemonic in Danish: Mnemoteknik
mnemonic in German: Mnemotechnik
mnemonic in Spanish: Nemotecnia
mnemonic in French: Mnémotechnique
mnemonic in Korean: 기억술
mnemonic in Croatian: Mnemotehnika
mnemonic in Indonesian: Jembatan keledai
mnemonic in Italian: Mnemotecnica
mnemonic in Hebrew: מנמוניקה
mnemonic in Hungarian: Memoriter
mnemonic in Dutch: Ezelsbruggetje
mnemonic in Japanese: 記憶術
mnemonic in Polish: Mnemotechnika
mnemonic in Portuguese: Mnemónica
mnemonic in Russian: Мнемоника
mnemonic in Slovak: Mnemotechnika
mnemonic in Slovenian: Mnemotehnika
mnemonic in Finnish: Muistisääntö
mnemonic in Swedish: Mnemoteknik
mnemonic in Thai: นีโมนิค
mnemonic in Ukrainian: Мнемоніка (мовозавство)
mnemonic in Chinese: 记忆术
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