Rebus puzzles are fun activities to challenge yourself and express ideas in a creative way. But what is a rebus puzzle, and how do you solve them? Check out these examples of famous rebus puzzles and others that you might not have seen before.
The term rebus comes from the Latin phrase non verbis, sed rebus, which means “not by words, but by things.” Rebus puzzles use pictures, symbols and letters to represent a word, phrase or idiom. There are two types of rebus puzzles that work as engaging brainteasers: puzzles that use pictures and symbols, and puzzles that use word positioning to form idioms.
One form of rebus puzzles uses pictures to spell out a complete message. These puzzles are also called pictograms and often involve images and mathematical symbols to create a full message. For example:
(eyeball) + (heart) + U = I love you
The “eye” stands for the letter “I,” the heart symbolizes “love” and the “U” represents the word “you.” When you combine an eyeball, a heart and a letter U, it means “I love you.” Other common symbols in rebus puzzles include:
- 2 - to or too
- 4 - for
- 8 - ate
- R - are
- U - you
- a bee - sound of the word “be”
- a sheep - sound of ewe, which can represent the word “you”
- a knot - sound of not
- a can of food - sound of can
Combine these symbols with other images to create fun rebus puzzles, such as:
- F + (picture of an ear) = fear
- D + (picture of a light) = delight
- GR + 8 = great
- L + 8 = late
- 2 + L = tool
- 4 + T = forty
These rebus puzzles are great exercises to include in classwork assignments or texts to friends. Now that you have an entire emoji keyboard on your phone or computer, it’s easy to be creative with rebus puzzles!
Other types of rebus puzzles use words and their positioning to reveal a popular phrase or idiom. The key to unlocking an idiom rebus word puzzle is the location of the letters or words. For example, take a look at this famous rebus:
At first glance, it looks like a strange set of nouns: “Head heels.” But take closer look at the positioning of the words. The word “head” is above the word “heels,” making the answer to the puzzle “Head over heels,” as in “head over heels in love.”
Here are a few more examples:
- 1 2 BLAME - one to blame
- 1 2 3 4 5 6...38 39 40 LIFE - life begins at 40
- FAREDCE - red in the face
- WINEEEE - win with ease
- PumPkinPie - piece (Ps) of pumpkin pie
- JOBINJOB - in between jobs
- SYMPHON... - unfinished symphony.
- another 1 - one right after another
- T_RN - no U turn
- counCLOSEters - close encounters
- WORL - world without end
Can you figure out these tricky rebus puzzles? Once you guess them, check your answers in the section below. Then try and quiz your friends!
How did you do? Check your answers for the above rebus puzzles here.
- forgive and forget
- kiss of death
- top secret
- once in a blue moon
- green with envy
- man overboard
- third time’s a charm
Rebus stories can help beginning learners fill in more difficult words. Some rebus stories have only the picture and the child fills in the word. Rebus rhymes and stories are great for young children who are just beginning to learn to read. There are pictures instead of words throughout the story and rhyme. These can really make reading fun, entertaining, and hopefully, help children develop a love of reading.
Rebus puzzles are great for kids or adults because they make you use both sides of your brain. They are mental exercises for a healthy mind. For more rebus puzzles, check out these rebus puzzles for kids that include printable worksheets. You can also bring rebus puzzles and stories to class with these classroom rebuses.