[ tang-gruh m ]
/ ˈtæŋ grəm /


a Chinese puzzle consisting of a square cut into five triangles, a square, and a rhomboid, which can be combined so as to form a great variety of other figures.

Origin of tangram

1860–65; tang-, perhaps < Chinese Táng T'ang, i.e., Chinese + -gram1
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Examples from the Web for tangram

British Dictionary definitions for tangram


/ (ˈtæŋɡræm) /


a Chinese puzzle in which a square, cut into a parallelogram, a square, and five triangles, is formed into figures

Word Origin for tangram

C19: perhaps from Chinese t'ang Chinese + -gram
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for tangram



"Chinese geometric puzzle," 1864, said to be an arbitrary formation based on anagram, etc. First element perhaps Chin. t'an "to extend," or t'ang, commonly used in Cantonese for "Chinese." Some suggest it is the name of the inventor, "but no such person is known to Chinese scholars" [OED]. Another theory involves the Tanka people, who were involved in the opium trade, and Western sailors who discovered the puzzle from their Tanka girlfriends. Perhaps from an obscure sense of tram. The Chinese name is Ch'i ch'iao t'u "seven ingenious plan."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper