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Puzzling Pictures


ABOVE Rebus Puzzle Example Number 1
Rebus Puzzle Example Number 2

Have you ever tried to solve a rebus?

A rebus is a puzzle in which pictures stand for syllables or words. Strung together, the pictures can be sounded out to make a word or a sentence. Rebus puzzles are like visual puns because the pictures are usually divorced from their meaning. For example, a picture of an eye can stand for the word "I." Thus a sequence of pictures of an eye, a bee, and a leaf means "I believe."

The word "rebus" comes from Latin, meaning to communicate "by things." Rebuses were used as far back as ancient Egypt and were employed as a form of written communication. In recent centuries, rebuses have engaged adults and children alike, who have found them in newspaper advertisements, on the inside of beer caps, and on one of the longest running TV game shows ever.

Can you solve these popular rebuses below?

Once you have solved them, try the more difficult one above, which comes from a nineteenth-century family magazine, The American Agriculturist, in SPNEA's Library and Archives. These are rebuses for the names of ten North American cities. Hint: not all of them are in the United States.

If you'd like to solve more rebuses, look for them at


Puzzle #1
Cities rebus puzzle, from left to right:

  • Top row: mill + walk + key = Milwaukee; N + ewe + port = Newport.

  • Second row: washing + ton = Washington; sack + ray + men + toe = Sacramento.

  • Third row: M + on tree + awl = Montreal; buffalo (water buffalo) = Buffalo.

  • Bottom row: gnu + or (which leans) = New Orleans; ball + tie + more (plus sign) = Baltimore; brook + lyn = Brooklyn.

Puzzle #2

  • Top row: peppermint

  • Second row: bellybutton

  • Third row: I am not home

Puzzling Pictures