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February 18, 2012 12:31 PM   Subscribe

Are there any words in English whose letters, when rearranged in every possible order, form a word in every case? Example: son-- sno, nos, nso, osn, etc. Obviously this is not a correct answer. If so, is there a word for it?
posted by bq to Writing & Language (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
You probably want to specific a minimum length, otherwise:

on, no

or even more trivially:

a

I
posted by ManInSuit at 12:34 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


WEE - EWE - EEW
posted by roofus at 12:41 PM on February 18, 2012


I don't know if there is a word for it, but I propose "pananagram".
posted by Jehan at 12:42 PM on February 18, 2012 [24 favorites]


I am going to take a guess here. My guess is that there are no words with three letters or more that fit your criterion. I feel there are almost certainly no words with four or more.

Here is where this guess comes from

- 5+ letters:
A five letter word that fit the criterion would have 5*4*3*2*1 anagrams = 120 anagrams. That is a lot. I think it's pretty fair to guess that no letters of five or more letters that fit this.

- 4 letters:
Here is a thread where people try to come up with the "most anagrammable 4-letter word". The most they come up with is 6 or 7. To fit your criteria, they'd have to come up with 4*3*2*1 = 24 anagrams. They are not even close.

- 3 letters:
I'm less certain no 3-letter examples exist. To meet your criteria, you'd need 3*2*1 = 6 anagrams. Here is someone posting in another thread. The most he can come up with is 5...
posted by ManInSuit at 12:47 PM on February 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


"no letters of five or more letters that fit this" should be "no words of five or more..."
posted by ManInSuit at 12:47 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


HOO - OHO - OOH
HAA - AHA - AAH
posted by roofus at 12:48 PM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was just going to suggest "panagram"! I can't find anything in Wikipedia on this. The closest thing is semodnilap, words that are real words read forward or backward.
posted by adamrice at 12:48 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


This thread also suggests it is likely that there are no 3-letter words matching your criteria of having six anagrams.
posted by ManInSuit at 12:50 PM on February 18, 2012


(Oh. I realize I'm making at least one bad assumption. If there are repeated letters in the word, then there would be fewer anagrams. Roofus's answers, if those are all words, are correct, since there are only 3 ways, not six, of rearranging the letters AAH and OOH.)
posted by ManInSuit at 12:53 PM on February 18, 2012


Here is someone posting in another thread. The most he can come up with is 5...

Well, that might just work!

TEA
TAE (Scots "to")
ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival)
ATE
EAT
AET (Common abbreviation of "aetatis")

It's a stretch though!
posted by Jehan at 12:54 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think eew is a word....
posted by bq at 12:55 PM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hmm interesting,
I don't think eew or haa are words, Maybe people write them to describe sounds, but then I can say ugh, hug, and guh, and ghu the last two which describe gargling sounds.

I am going by whether or not the word is in the official scrabble dictionary.

don't think there is
posted by xetere at 12:56 PM on February 18, 2012


Oh, for a two letter word, well, you could say aa, which is aa and aa forward and back.
aa is one of my favorite geology terms, it is a type of lava, the less viscous more liquid kind, IIRC, the more viscous is pahoehoe. Both are of Hawaiian origin, of course, since Hawaii has a lot of lava.

Both are now in common use at least amongst geologists, and Srabble accepts it.
posted by xetere at 12:58 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


According to the official Scrabble tournament word list, there is exactly one word longer than 2 letters that meets your definition:

ZZZ --used to suggest the sound of snoring
posted by teraflop at 1:13 PM on February 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Teraflop! Nailed it! I think this is the first three letter word in the thread that meets the criteria, using the scrabble word list as the benchmark of "real" words.
posted by ManInSuit at 1:26 PM on February 18, 2012


Close, but no cigar:

ARE
ERA
EAR
AER (Celtic)
REA (Proper noun, not the bird)
RAE (Proper noun)
posted by halfbuckaroo at 1:26 PM on February 18, 2012


It looks like people are having to cheat pretty hard to come up with anything close. If eew isn't a word, then neither are of of rufus' words. If it is, then any sting of letters you can pronounce is a word.
posted by cmoj at 1:35 PM on February 18, 2012


Mat
Tam (scottish hat)
ATM
MTA (at least in big cities with mass transit)
AMT (abbrev for amount)
but I can't work out TMA. Oh well.
posted by Mchelly at 4:39 PM on February 18, 2012


too much acronymation
posted by zompist at 6:51 PM on February 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I knocked together a quick script to look for these. I've been using the word lists from this site. There's two related questions here:

1. Which set of letters forms a valid word in the highest number of permutations?
2. Which set of letters forms the most unique words?

At 3 letters:

The only set of letters valid in every permutation is (as teraflop pointed out), "zzz". The most unique words formed from the same letters are in the set ("eta", "tae", "ate", "eat" and "tea").

At 4 letters

anna / naan / nana (12 valid permutations)
seta, etas, teas, eats, seat, sate, ates, east (8 unique words)

At 5 letters

reset / reest / terse / trees / ester / stere / steer (14 valid permutations)
pares, spear, presa, pears, parse, rapes, prase, spare, asper, apers, apres, reaps (12 unique words)

At 6 letters

A tie between the following, all with 48 valid permutations:

assess / sasses
beebee
booboo
coocoo
muumuu
weewee

artels, talers, staler, alerts, estral, salter, stelar, slater, laster, alters, ratels (11 unique words)

At 7 letters

Another tie at 48 permutations:

beebees
booboos
terreen / reenter / enterer / terrene
gigging
meseems / sememes
muumuus
referee
severer / reverse / reveres / reserve
tsetses / sestets
testees / settees
sissies
weeweed
weewees

retains, nastier, stearin, retinas, antsier, anestri, ratines, stainer, retsina (9 unique words)

At 8 letters

assesses (240 valid permutations)
granites, ganister, astringe, angriest, rangiest, gantries, ingrates (7 unique words)
posted by xchmp at 7:51 PM on February 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Wow, I can't believe no one has mentioned times!

times
emits
smite
items
mites

or stop

stop
pots
tops
opts

I love to play Boggle, can you tell?
posted by Lynsey at 9:16 PM on February 18, 2012


You forgot a couple with stop, Lynsey:

opts
post
pots
spot
stop
tops
posted by frecklefaerie at 7:07 AM on February 19, 2012


Another simple two-letter word would be at/ta (thanks).
posted by ersatz at 7:46 AM on February 20, 2012


but I can't work out TMA. Oh well.

Tycho Magnetic Anomaly?
posted by HiroProtagonist at 8:22 PM on February 20, 2012


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