Meaning of rebus in English:


Pronunciation /ˈriːbəs/

Translate rebus into Spanish

nounplural noun rebuses

  • 1A puzzle in which words are represented by combinations of pictures and individual letters; for instance, apex might be represented by a picture of an ape followed by a letter X.

    ‘Similar to doing a rebus or crossword puzzle, it's a drawing of nine dots, and the challenge is to connect them without lifting the pen from the paper.’
    • ‘Just last week one of the words in the rebus puzzle was a cow plus a banjo minus the letter ‘M.’’
    • ‘Designs often took the form of pictorial puns and rebuses, or word puzzles.’
    • ‘A rebus is a picture puzzle, and it seemed to click.’
    • ‘There seem to be puzzles, maybe even a few rebuses or word-games hidden in it too.’
    • ‘It may be that the heraldic nature of the squirrel's significance in the painting suggested the rebus like pun to represent the place name.’
    • ‘Suppose I have a picture-puzzle, a rebus, in front of me.’
    • ‘It's in the form of a rebus and translates to ‘I'm watching you.’’
    • ‘The relaxed conjunction of leaf and slingshot forms a rebus, suggesting the proximity of support and threat in relationships between things - all sorts of things, human, animal and mineral.’
    • ‘The bamboo signifies uprightness, as mentioned above; the fungus, or lingzhi, was also thought to contribute longevity and the five bats are a rebus or pun.’
    • ‘An epigraph typically functions as a rebus for an essay, providing a gloss or indicating the author's approach.’
    • ‘It's something of a rebus, though perhaps involving more associative skills than your average rebus and doesn't make sense except as a melding of personae.’
    1. 1.1 historical An ornamental device associated with a person to whose name it punningly alludes.
      ‘Among the myriad rebuses on the aforementioned double-sided sheet at Windsor, there is an elaborate one on the verso that includes an image of a black yarnwinder.’
      • ‘For Leonardo, the double meaning of word-images in a rebus, like the deceptive vagaries and elusive nature of vision, must have made him acutely aware of the relativity of perception.’
      • ‘As layered rebuses of meaning with an exceptional iconographic density, they visually manipulated inherited codes of social value, adroitly invoking both positive and negative contemporary references.’
      • ‘Margaret's shrinelike tomb canopy is almost hidden under carved foliage and tracery, with openwork rebuses, initials and ropework.’
      • ‘Amongst fragments set into the background of a fifteenth-century panel depicting St Mary Magdalen in the east chancel window are quarries with fragments of the Lovell rebus.’
      • ‘Visual puns and rebuses had been popular features in the heraldic imprese or devises of France for centuries.’


Early 17th century from French rébus, from Latin rebus, ablative plural of res ‘thing’.