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Major Memory System

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The Major System (also known as the phonetic memory system) is a mnemonic method for creating peg words for use with the Peg Memory System.

The method works by associating the phonetic sound of particular consonants to each numeral. Memorable words or phrases can then be generated to represent any number by linking successive consonant sounds together using vowel sounds..

Once the word or phrase to represent the number has been formed, it is then used as a peg word by linking it with the item you wish to associate with the number.

Learning the Phonetic Code

It is recommended that you learn the following standard set of numeral-sound associations. These have been well tested over the years and make it easy to generate words representing particular numbers.

Note how the different letters corresponding to each numeral make similar phonetic sounds and require similar positions of lips and tongue.

NumeralConsonant soundsAid for Memory
0s, z, soft c z is first letter of zero
1d, tThe letters have ONE downstroke
2nn has TWO downstrokes
3mm has THREE downstrokes; also m looks like 3 on its side
4rr is is last letter or FOUR.
5lL is the Roman letter representing 50
6sh, j, soft ch, soft gg is like 6 twisted round
7k, hard g, q, hard c, hard ch k is made up of 7s
8f, ph, vScript f is like 8
9b, p b is like upside-down 9; p is mirror of 9
NullAll vowels, plus w, wh, h, yCan be added anywhere to make words or phrases

Forming Peg Words

To create peg words for any number, choose a word or phrase that is pronounced using a sequence of consonant sounds that corresponds to the sequence of numerals in the number. Vowels (and w, wh, h, y) can be freely used as fillers between consonants (or at the beginning or end of words).

You will generally have several words or phrases that you could choose to represent a number. You should always choose the word or phrase that is most memorable. Generally words and phrases that are easily visualised are best.


NumberConsonant SequencesSome Possible Words / Phrases
0(s, z)SEA,  ZOO
1(t, d)TEA,  DAY
20(n)  (s, z)NOSE, NOOSE, NAZI
34(m) (r)MARE,  MOOR,
746(k, q, hard c, hard g)  (r)  (sh, j, soft g) CARRIAGE,  GARAGE,  GARISH
2599(n)  (l)  (b, p)  (b, p)NAIL-POP,  KNEEL-BABY
685342(sh, j, soft g)  (f, ph, v)  (l)  (m)  (r)  (n)SHOVEL-MORN, JIVE-LAMB-RUN

Note: For long numbers, form a sequence of words that you can then connect using the Link System


The Major System, when combined with the Peg System, is a both powerful and versatile. You can use it, for example, to learn:

  • Dates of historical events. For example, the first voyage of Christopher Columbus in 1492 can become COLUMBUS-TURBAN (visualise Columbus wearing a turban).
  • The Atomic Numbers of the elements. For example, Silver (47) can become SILVER-ROCK; Uranium (92) can become URANIUM-BAN
  • Best Films at the Oscars. For example, The Silence of the Lambs (1991) can become LAMBS-PET, or PET-LAMBS if you want to recall the date of the award). Note that you don't always need to use the full year when you already know the century.
  • Olympic Games venues. For example, Tokyo (1964) can become TOKYO-CHAIR (visualise an elaborately decorated Japenese chair)
  • Phone numbers. For example, Alice (4384-25421) can become ALICE-ROOM-FOR-NIL-RENT.
  • Your credit card PIN numbers. Note that you can often change your PIN number to one that will make an easy-to-remember word.

You will soon find that the small effort you put into learning the Major System will be richly rewarded.



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