When I was a child I had a puzzle book. One of the puzzles involved finding words where you can remove one letter from the beginning or end of the word, and you still have a valid word. You can continue this process with these words until there is only one letter left.

For example, "brandy" is such a word, because after each letter is removed below, we get another word:


I don't have an actual puzzle here. But instead I am looking for the name of this class of word, if it exists.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is the best I can find but a "deletion" in context of a word puzzle is any letter while "enumerated terminal deletion" deletes both letters each time. puzzlers.org/guide/remove.html $\endgroup$
    – kaine
    Jul 14, 2014 at 15:28

2 Answers 2


In general, these puzzles are called "Deletion Puzzles" but the usually do not include the restriction to the beginning or end letters. The most famous example is "startling" as it is the longest. It is also sometimes called "Elision". Please not that these terms also do not require it to be iterative.

"Terminal Deletion" or "Terminal Elision" refer to removing both the first and last letters to make a work.

"Decapitation" word puzzles refer to only removing the first letter to reveal a word.

You would most likely have luck calling a puzzle regarding these words an "Iterated Amputation" word puzzle. Amputation usually has the same definition as Decapitation for this context but it less common. It would be easy to draw contrast between them and describe removing either of the two "arms" of the word (right or left arm). Iterated, of course, refers to the fact you want to do this several times. Does that mean you call a word "amputatable"? I don't know.

Ultimately I don't think a single term for what you want exists and, if it did, I can't think of a context where you wouldn't have to define it for the audience anyways.

I suggest you check out "A Key to Puzzledom: Or, Complete Handbook of the Enigmatic Art" which is available on google books.

  • $\begingroup$ Also from the same source: curtailment removes the last letter, Apheresis removes the first, and Apocope remove the last as well. $\endgroup$
    – kaine
    Jul 14, 2014 at 15:55
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    $\begingroup$ +1 I particularly like "Iterated Amputation". I'll leave this question open for a few days, but will likely accept this answer! $\endgroup$ Jul 14, 2014 at 16:49
  • $\begingroup$ Just curious, what is the sequence for "startling"? "startling" - "starting" - "staring" - ??? $\endgroup$
    – justhalf
    Jul 15, 2014 at 3:33
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ String...sting...sing...sin...in...I $\endgroup$
    – kaine
    Jul 15, 2014 at 3:34
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, yes, "string". Somehow after "staring" my mind thinks that I should remove either the first or the last letter. $\endgroup$
    – justhalf
    Jul 22, 2014 at 2:51

The original game, perhaps, was Doublets, by Lewis Carroll. This had no addition or deletion, though variants allowed a variety of similar tasks. If so, wikipedia titles this form of game, "Word Ladder".


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