This is in the spirit of the What is a Word™/Phrase™ series started by JLee with a special brand of Phrase™ and Word™ puzzles.

If a word conforms to a special rule, I call it a Living Word™.

Use the examples below to find the rule.

$$\begin{array}{|c|c|}\hline \bbox[yellow]{\textbf{Living Words™}} & \bbox[yellow]{\textbf{Not Living Words™}}\\\hline \text{ADAPTING} & \text{BONES}\\\hline \text{BODIES} & \text{BURIED}\\\hline \text{CANCEROUS} & \text{CROSS}\\\hline \text{DISEASES} & \text{CRUELTY}\\\hline \text{ENVIRONMENTAL} & \text{DEATH}\\\hline \text{FLOURISHED} & \text{DECOMPOSITION}\\\hline \text{GERMINATING} & \text{EMBALM}\\\hline \text{HYENAS} & \text{EULOGY}\\\hline \text{ILLNESS} & \text{EXECUTION}\\\hline \text{JUMPING} & \text{EXTERMINATION}\\\hline \text{KINDHEARTED} & \text{FRANKENSTEIN}\\\hline \text{LIVELINESS} & \text{FUNERAL}\\\hline \text{MUTATES} & \text{GENOCIDE}\\\hline \text{NOISES} & \text{GRAVE}\\\hline \text{OXYGEN} & \text{HEAVEN}\\\hline \text{PERPLEXING} & \text{HELL}\\\hline \text{QUADRUPLET} & \text{HOLOCAUST}\\\hline \text{REGENERATES} & \text{MOURNING}\\\hline \text{SYMBIOSES} & \text{MUMMY}\\\hline \text{TRANSCENDENTALIST} & \text{MURDER}\\\hline \text{UPRIGHT} & \text{POISONED}\\\hline \text{VIGOROUS} & \text{ROCK}\\\hline \text{WACKY} & \text{SKELETON}\\\hline \text{YOUNGSTER} & \text{SUICIDE}\\\hline \text{ZYGOTES} & \text{VAMPIRE}\\\hline \text{} & \text{WAR}\\\hline \text{} & \text{ZOMBIE}\\\hline \end{array}$$

CSV Version:

Living Words™,Not Living Words™

These are not the only examples of Living Words™, there are many more in existence. In the spellcheck dictionary, which I got my wordlists from, about 5.5% of all words are Living Words™.

So, what is the rule? Of course, it has nothing to do with the definition or connotation of the word, only with its spelling.

Hint #1

Any anagram of a Living Word™ is another Living Word™.

Hint #2

The only single-letter Living Word™ is “R”.

Hint #3

All “demonic” words are Living Words™. The shortest “demonic” word is FOX. Some others are BUSINESS, CROWDED, EUNUCH, GUTENBERG, NAUSEATED, SEVERING, TOMATOES, and WINGS.

Hint #4


Hint #5

Although it should be perfectly possible for a monolingual English speaker to solve the puzzle, it may be easier if you know a bit of Hebrew.

Hint #6

The 5.5% statistic is meaningful.

Hint #7


  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Do you think you could arrange it in a more readable format? Thanks! $\endgroup$ – boboquack Feb 5 '17 at 3:09
  • $\begingroup$ @boboquack: What kind of format do you have in mind? $\endgroup$ – dan04 Feb 5 '17 at 3:13
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Maybe a table with one kind on one side and the other on the other side, that seems to be the custom here. $\endgroup$ – boboquack Feb 5 '17 at 3:14
  • $\begingroup$ OK, I've accepted Oiler V's edit to make the lists into a table. $\endgroup$ – dan04 Feb 5 '17 at 3:57
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    $\begingroup$ Wow, that's a lot of hints. You probably didn't need to give so many so soon. $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Feb 5 '17 at 20:46

A Living Word is a word that ...

... is evenly divisible by 18 in when interpreted as a number according to the following table:

        A 1         J 10         S 100
        B 2         K 20         T 200
        C 3         L 30         U 300
        D 4         M 40         V 400
        E 5         N 50         W 500
        F 6         O 60         X 600
        G 7         P 70         Y 700
        H 8         Q 80         Z 800
        I 9         R 90
The number is the sum of the letter values.

This satisfies the many hints:

  • The Greek alphabet with the archaic characters Digamma and Koppa hints at Greek numerals. A similar system is used in Hebrew.
  • R with the value 90 is the only single-letter word that is divisible by 18. Because the English alphabet has only 26 letter, it is too short to have a letter for 900, which would be the second single-letter Living Word.
  • FOX is 6 + 60 + 600 = 666. It is the only "direct" demonic word with one letter for each decimal digit, but all the other demonic words correspond to a value of 666, too.
  • MOTHER + FATHER = WISDOM → 403 + 310 = 713
  • BROTHER + SISTER = CODEPENDENCY → 455 + 504 = 959
  • I can confirm the 5.5% statistic with a check on several dictionaries. 5.5% is the eighteenth part of a whole, but I'm not so sure whether this statistic really leads to the divisibility by 18. That can only be true if the number system spreads the numeric values of real worrd evenly across the number space. I'm not so sure of that, but I haven't really looked into it, either.

They are called Living Numbers ...

.. because in Hebrew Gematria, the word Chai has two letters that sum up to eighteen. It is considered a lucky number and it means "alive".

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice! I was just going to type the same answer :P $\endgroup$ – Levieux Feb 6 '17 at 8:09

As far as I have checked Living Words satisfy the following rule

If we replace the letters of the alphabet with their corresponding positions in the alphabet i.e, $A=1, B=2, \ldots, Z=26$ and sum the resulting numbers for a Living Word, the result is always divisble by $9$.


UPRIGHT $21+16+18+9+7+8+20 = 99 = 9\times 11$
ILLNESS $9+12+12+14+5+19+19 = 90 = 9\times 10$
ZYGOTES $26+25+7+15+20+5+19 = 117 = 9 \times 13$


This explains all of the hints except for the fact that 'I' is not a living word, by my definition, which confuses me.

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  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You're on the right track! All Living Words™ do meet your proposed rule. But the converse is not true. CONTRACEPTION, EXPIRED, EYEGLASSES, FATALISM, GLACIAL, GRISTLE, MAGNETIC, SEDIMENTS, and WARMONGERING are not Living Words™ despite meeting your rule. Pay close attention to the hints, and try again. $\endgroup$ – dan04 Feb 5 '17 at 20:00

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