Pangrams and Lipograms

By Maeve Maddox

I’ve long known that the sentence

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

contains every letter of the alphabet. What I didn’t know is that such a sentence has a special name. It’s a pangram.

pangram – from the Greek pan “every,” and gramma “letter” – also called a holoalphabetic sentence; “a sentence or (occas.) verse, containing every letter of the alphabet” (OED).

A “perfect” pangram would contain each letter only once and wouldn’t make much sense. For example: Jink cwm, zag veldt, fob qursh pyx

A lipogram is a sentence that is missing one or more letters.

lipogram – from a Greek word meaning “to be lacking” (no relation to liposuction in which the lipo is from a word for “fat”) The OED definition is “a composition from which the writer rejects all words that contain a certain letter or letters.”

One Christmas I received a card from a friend with a droll sense of humor. It took me a while to figure it out. Although it is not a sentence, I think that it can count as a lipogram. Here’s the message that was inside the card:

a b c d e f g h i j k m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Hint: What’s another word for “Christmas”?

See the fascinating Wikipedia List of pangrams

Click here to get access to 800+ interactive grammar exercises!


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21 Responses to “Pangrams and Lipograms”

  • Lindsay

    Wow, it took me far too long to find the message in that one. I kept thinking “but the X is there…”

    Love the post. Very clever friend you have there.

  • Irony

    Isn’t it ironic that in explaining the definition of a pangram you failed to notice your example omits the letter ‘s.’ Hence the correct pangram that is so commonly used would be:

    “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

  • Renfruit

    Where is the ‘s’?

  • david smythe

    Adviser or Advisor?

  • Ed Foster

    Hi There,

    Your sentence “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” is missing the “s,” an error I’ve seen before. The word “jumped” should be replaced by “jumps.” Then you’ll be OK. Thanks.

    Ed

  • egorbrandt egorbrandt

    “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog

    contains every letter of the alphabet”

    s-s-s-strange

  • Chris M

    This is definitely a cool article!! However, I don’t whether to be impressed or horrorifed that someone would take the time to create all of those panagrams.

    Where might I find other Lipograms?

  • Maeve

    Chris,
    Lipograms can’t really be listed the way pangrams can be.

    See this Wikipedia article on lipograms:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lipogram#Pangrammatic_lipogram

  • Edward F. Gumnick

    Your use of “awhile” in the paragraph that begins “One Christmas…” seems to be at odds with the site’s explanation of the distinction between “awhile” and “a while.” This paragraph seems to be using “a while” as a noun, not as an adverb. If you’d said “I pondered awhile,” “awhile” would be appropriate.

    Incidentally, I think the article that explains this distinction (http://www.dailywritingtips.com/a-while-vs-awhile) is incorrect in asserting that “a while” must be preceded by a preposition. By your own reasoning, if “awhile” is synonymous with “for a while,” then “it took me awhile” makes no sense.

    Or am I missing something?

  • Daran

    “a while” is correct.

    Also “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” contains no “s”. The correct pangram uses “jumps”.

  • Grace S.

    Maeve, you have changed the traditional pangram sentence to a lipogram by leaving out a very important letter: s. The word “dog” must be made plural to include every letter of the alphabet in the sentence! (I know, I was really flabbergasted the first time I realized that such a commonly occurring letter as “s” was not found in another word in the sentence.)

    Edward, I agree with you on the use of “awhile.”

  • Shamus

    I believe it should be “The quick brown fox jumps (not jumped) over the lazy dog”, or the letter “s” would be missing.

  • Grace S.

    Oh, I just realized that you COULD substitute “jumps” for “jumped,” and then “dog” can remain singular. (“E” occurs in “the” and “d” occurs in “dog.”) I think that was the way I had originally heard it, and why I was so surprised the first time I heard “jumped” and “dogs” used.

  • Maeve

    Thanks. I’m going to change it because, come to think of it, the version I learned had “jumps.”

  • Maeve

    RE: awhile vs a while

    Doh! I know that.

  • Nils

    For lovers of Dutch, there’s the inimitable ‘Opperlandse Taal & Letterkunde’ by Battus
    http://www.dbnl.org/tekst/bran023oppe01_01/

  • Dana

    If you say ‘jumped’ instead of ‘jumps’, then the pangram becomes a lipogram!

  • How to start a nursing agency

    This is great validation and helps us understand just how to learn more of your content

  • James

    i still don’t get the message at the end! i can see there’s no ‘l’, but i still can’t figure it out. and the hint’s not helping either…

    thank you!

  • David

    James,

    As you yourself said, there is “No ‘l'” in the message. Noel (or Noël, to be perfectly accurate) is a synonym for Christmas.

  • Catherine

    What is the answer to the question on the end? My teacher set us some prep with that question on it and I can’t work it out. I tried asking him and he won’t tell me the answer. Please Help!!!!

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