Different variations on the mnemonic Major System

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In memorizing numbers through the major system we explained what the mnemonic major system is and how it can help you to remember numbers. But a lot of variations to this mnemonic system exist. In this article we will guide you through the different variations, we'll describe advantages and disadvantages and we will tell you which variation we have use in our mnemonic numeral search engine.

Roughly speaking, there are two dimensions in the major system variations:

  • Phonetic major system
  • Typographic major system
And the second dimension is about
  • variations in the mapping table digits and consonants.

The following example will be used through-out this article: Phonetic and typographic mnemonics Now let's get started.

Phonetic major system

In the phonetic major system the pronounciation of the keywords is important. We don't care about the spelling, only how you pronounce it. That's in fact why it's called a phonetic system. Let's take examine our example.

  • Phonetic - you pronounce this like "fonetic", so we obtain the number 8217.
  • and - easy one: 21.
  • typographic - supposing that we don't have linguistic assimilation between the last letter of and and the first letter of typogrphic, you pronounce it like typografic. We get the following code: 196487.
  • mnemonics - this is a difficult one. You pronounce it as nemonics, so the code is 23270.

The big advantage of this method is that it is fast. We, humans, think in terms of sounds rather than in terms of spelling. This makes the phonetic major system very strong, but there are a number of disadvantages:

  • Ambiguity - is it alway clear to you how you need to pronounce a word correctly? For example, did you know that you don't pronounce the first letter in mnemonics?
  • Dialects make it difficult to exchange keywords mnemonics with others.
  • Certain words have different, valid ways to pronounce.
  • Vowels with consonant sound. In the major system we normally only map consonents, we don't map the vowels. So, what when a vowel has a consonant sound? For example, the word Maior is pronounced the same as Major, so what is the code? 34 or 364?
  • Linguistic assimilation is probably the hardest part. Don't be silly is pronounced as Dombe silly, handbag is hambag, okto is otto, ...
  • When is a letter a soft c, when is it a hard c? Same for the letter g, ch, ...

Typographic major system

In the typographic major system we look at the spelling of the words. We don't care about pronounciation, we just want to know it's spelling, that's all that matters. Let's take another look to our example.

  • Phonetic - 9217.
  • and - 21.
  • typographic - 196497.
  • mnemonics - 323270.

This has the advantages that we can forget about sound, it is much less ambiguous, but... now we need to think of the spelling of the word. Some disadvantages:

  • Spelling is not alway easy. For example, is it accomodate, accommodate or acommodate?
  • Still some level of ambiguity, because sometimes you can spell a word on different ways, all valid. For example, memorizing or memorising? In this example we obtain the same code, though.

Mapping table variations

In how to use the major system to remember large numbers we have explained the following mapping table:

Remembering numbers with the major system

Unfortunately, there exist a lot of variations on this table. Before talking about these examples, let me already tell you the most important thing: it is not important which mapping table you use. As long as your are consistent and as long as you have it memorized as stone yourself. Now a few examples of variations:

  • When using the phonetic major system, there are usually different lines for C and G, depending on whether you pronounce it softly or hardly.
  • The Q is sometimes added as a 7.
  • Sometimes you will find back TH as 1.
  • It also happens that you find different association reasons between letters and digits. For example, we've told that R is 4 because that is the last letter. Another possible association is to imagine an R that is sticked after the 4 back-to-back. Another example: image the letter 6 as a golf stick which makes the SH-sound when over grass.


It is not so important to choose which one of the variations of the major system you use, but it is important to be consistent. You don't want to use the phonetic major system to memorize some telephone numbers and the typographic major system to remember other phone numbers. Consistency is the key. It should be sufficient having memorized the keyword without knowing which variation is used.

One difference though is that it should be easy to retrieve keywords for the mnemonic system you have chosen. The mnemonic numeral search engine of Rememberg.com uses the typographic major system because that is the easiest one to automate. This can aid you to easily find keywords, so we recommend that you also use this variation.


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