Learn the Major System for Remembering Numbers

Learn the Major System and never again forget a phone number. Get good at remembering numbers by learning this simple phonetic system.

Learn the Major System and never again forget a phone number. Get good at remembering numbers by learning this simple phonetic system..

While there are many Memory Systems in current use, each one utilising a slightly different method to turn numbers into images that are more easily remembered, the Major System is the original upon which all others are based.

The Major System

This system, first described by Amie Paris in 1825 and later popularized by Harry Lorraine, works by turning numbers into consonant sounds, adding vowels and creating memorable words.

The system begins by assigning consonant sounds to the numbers 0-9:

0 = S or Z

1 = T or D

2 = N

3 = M

4 = R

5 = L

6 = J, ch, sh, soft g

7 = K, hard c or hard g

8 = F or V

9 = P or B

Using the logic of this system you can turn any number into an image. For example, the number 64 can be turned into the image of a JaR. 6 = J and 4 =R. Or it can be turned into the image of a ChaiR 6 = CH and 4 =R.

Larger numbers are just as easy to turn into images. 741 for example represents, hard c, r and d. By adding a couple of vowels, we can turn this number into the image of a CaRD.

The system is simple to use. But learning and memorising a shape image for each number does take time and effort.

You can with practice learn a number shape for numbers up to a thousand and with even more effort beyond. Although in practice it’s not efficient to go beyond 1000.

Link Images Using the Method of Loci

Once you have images memorised for each number it’s a simple task to remember any long number, whether it be a phone number, bank account or serial number.

For example, take this randomly generated 11-digit number; 73686736762.

We can break this number down into the following 736 – 867 – 367 – 62.

736 = GaMe SHow

867 = FiSHinG

367 = MaGiC

62 = CHaiN

Now instead of 11 random numbers we have 4 images.

All it takes to remember this number is to create a memorable journey along one of your pre-prepared Journey Paths. (Method of Loci)

Imagine you are on a GaMe SHow. The object of show is to catch as many fish as possible. Place this image on the first stop of your journey.

You are given a tiny FiSHing rod. Place this image on the second stop of your journey.

On the third stop of your journey you discover one of the other contestants is dressed like a magician and is using MaGiC to catch hundreds of fish.

When you reach the fourth stop on your journey, you realise that your fishing line has turned into a CHaiN.

With four powerful images you have turned a random number into something easily remembered.


The key is to learn the phonetic for each number 0-9. Once you have this learned by heart, you will be able to take any three-digit number and turn it into an image.

Break down longer numbers into three-digit chunks, then take those chunks and create memorable images for each one, the more vivid and impactful, the easier it will be to remember.

The Major System is an elegant method for remembering long strings of unrelated numbers. It does take effort to learn initially but given enough effort you’ll be able to turn numbers into images on the fly and then convert those images back into numbers when you need to.

The Method of Loci is Your Foundation for a Stronger Memory

The Method of Loci goes all the way back to ancient Rome and Greece. It is also known as the Journey Method, or The Roman Room Method.

The Method of Loci.

The Method of Loci goes all the way back to ancient Rome and Greece. It is also known as the Journey Method, or The Roman Room Method.

The technique consists of learning a series of locations, preferably familiar places, like the rooms of your home, or the streets of your local neighbourhood. The location you choose isn’t as important as is your ability to picture that location vividly.

The key is to know your loci intimately.

For example, let’s take your home as an example. We’ll keep it simple and only use 8 loci:

  1. Bed 1
  2. Bed 2
  3. Bed 3
  4. Bathroom
  5. Stairs
  6. Hall
  7. Kitchen
  8. Living Room

Building the Journey

Imagine that you want to remember a list of fruit and vegetables. Your list consists of 8 items:

  1. Apples
  2. Oranges
  3. Banana’s
  4. Strawberries
  5. Blueberries
  6. Carrots
  7. Broccoli
  8. Brussel Sprouts

How do you link these items to your remembered locations? Easy. You do it like this.

Bed 1. Picture your bedroom. Now fill it with huge apples. See them clearly, green luscious, juicy and the size of basket balls. And every time you touch one it multiplies, filling the room even more. Imagine yourself struggling to wade through all those apples to get to Bed 2.

Bed 2. Picture this room clearly. Now imagine that the wardrobe door bursts open spilling thousands of citrus smelling oranges into the room. See the bright shiny orange skins, smell the citrus, feel the rough skin of the orange in your hand.

Bed 3. Once again, picture the room. Now see huge banana’s hanging from the ceiling. See the bright yellow skins, smell that banana aroma. Reach up and grab one of them. Peel it. Taste it.

Bathroom. Go into your bathroom. When you turn on your shower, instead of water, strawberries start falling out of the shower head. Once again, picture the bright red strawberries, the sweet strawberry smell. Imagine the way they feel falling on your head, the way they squish as you step on them.

Stairs. As you walk down the stairs you notice that each step is made up of thousands of juicy blueberries. Imagine the way the juice squirts as your foot stands on them.

Hall. In the middle of the hall a huge carrot is blocking the way. You can’t move it, so you decide to eat it.

Kitchen. You walk into the kitchen and there are a dozen people wearing broccoli suits, sitting around your kitchen table, chatting and drinking coffee.

Living room. And finally, picture yourself entering your living room only to find that your fireplace is popping Brussel sprouts. They are flying through the air like conkers from a schoolboy’s sling. Imagine them hitting you, forcing you to flee the room.

Now without looking back try and write down the 8 items of groceries. Just retrace your steps from your bedroom to the living room.

Even with a quick run through you will already be able to remember this list. That’s the power of the Method of Loci.


The main thing to remember is to make your loci, places that you know very well and to make the journey consistent. Then attach an image of what you are trying to remember to each location. Make the image vivid. Add colours, sounds, smells, texture. The more information you can squeeze into the image the better.

Make the image move, make the things you are imagining absurd, very small, or very big. The more violent the image or risqué, the easier it will be to remember.

And there’s no limit to the number of loci you can use.

If you’d like to learn more about mnemonic systems, read this book review.



The Memory Code