Mnemonics Course (Part 5 ) – Substituting Abstract Words

It’s time to sum up what we’ve learned so far! What do we know?



We know how to create images, we know that we have to place them somewhere and how to memorize foreign words (or at least strange looking ones). But there is one problem.

Have you noticed it?
So far we’ve been memorizing tangible objects or people.

And that’s great since they are so easy to imagine.

Each one of us has their own internal models of words.
You don’t have problems with imagining words like “to read, “a book”, “a pen”, “a bed”, etc.

When I say” bed”, the chance is that the picture of your own cozy bed will appear before your eyes.

And the truth is that we should always try to deconstruct concepts, words, presentations in the way which enables us to substitute them with some tangible and easy-to-depict images.

And therein lies the rub! What with abstract words?
We can’t simply ignore them!

Let’s try to get around this problem then.


How To Substitute Abstract Words

Let’s say it one more time – we should always try to deconstruct concepts, words, presentations in the way which enables us to substitute them with some tangible and easy-to-depict images.

It’s not always obvious how to do it, and it’s not always easy.
But, as always, with little practice, you’ll be able to move mountains.

It’s also worth mentioning that very often the best associations are the ones which come to your mind as first.

Let’s go through some examples:


  • Courage – think about people who can be associated with courage – William Wallace from Braveheart? For me, it would be Courage The Cowardly Dog as I know how he looks like and his name is a perfect match for this word.




  • Liberty – The Statue of Liberty anyone?
  • Fear – ghosts, demons, take your pick
  • Uncertainty – I certainly associate this word with looking nervously at the telephone
  • Love – big heart (surrounded with butterflies), kissing couple?
  • Surprise – Kinder Surprise
  • Outrage – I immediately associate it with this face from rage comic.




  • Quality – my first association is actually a collocation “quality control”. That means that I’ll need a person who conducts such inspection and can be associated with quality. Being a geek, my choice is either Cal Lightman (Lie To Me) or Kalisi Khal (Game Of Thrones) as their names cover most of the word “quality”.


Cal Lightman

Cal Lightman


  • Violence – is it just me or does it sound similar to “violins”. That’s why I would try to imagine two people trying to mutilate each other with violins.



by SaltySteveD (


Task For You

Nothing too complicated so don’t worry. Pick 10 abstract words (verbs, nouns, adjectives) and try to substitute them with some tangible words.

If you find yourself at a loss, refer to this page.
Once you have your images, connect them into some story and place somewhere using the Method of Loci.

I’m really looking forward to the next part. I’ll share my favorite technique which has helped me to memorize about 1000 words within just a few days.

Yes, it’s perfectly possible. You’ll see for yourself.

Till then!
Bartosz Czekala


  • What images would you create for words like “of”, “that”, and “this”. So words whose meaning is largely dependent on the context in which it is being used. These are typically the most frequently used words in languages but they are hard to visualize.

    • I would never try to memorize such words. I would either use a cheatsheet for such words or I would try to acquire them organically as they occur very frequently. Using mnemonics for them is a waste of time, if you ask me 🙂

  • Buy all means: I am paying money at Best Buy for a wall in which each brick contains a mean face

    Draw the line at: I see a hand drawing a line and then the pencil bumps into a huge ant and drags down the page

    At hand: a wooly hat (at) pulled down over a hand.

    Right now I’m struggling to find an image for “where”

    • Great job! As for “where” – you don’t have to find some association which resembles this word very closely.
      If you want, start using the picture of “wool” to depict “Where”.
      But always remember to be consistent. Once “wool” becomes “Where”, it should stay this way! 🙂

  • Yep, that would be some useful advice on what Robert has mentioned above. Any suggestions on that ?

    • Bartosz Czekala

      I wouldn’t really use mnemonics for word clusters. It’s inefficient. What I do is use SRS programs (e.g. ANKI) to learn them effectively.

  • Finally, method for an abstract words but for me it’s hard to find substitute. For example I want to remember expressions like this “by all means”, “draw the line at” or “at hand”.
    What do you propose ?

    Thank You for this curse !

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