Puzzle Pieces – Names & Sorting

Have you ever wondered what the different jigsaw puzzle pieces are called? Well, if so, you are not alone. Upon researching, I’ve discovered that there are many different names that people like to call them, some more applicable than others.


The edge pieces are easy, they are just that… “edges”. Some people group the corners in with the edge pieces too, because after all, they ARE edges. But what if you have a puzzle that has no actual corners? Some puzzles are made in the shape of maps, birds or other animals, or maybe a flower… just a myriad of different shapes that have no corners. Well, in that case, you would still have edge pieces, but they would be more difficult to find, because the edge might not be in a straight line.

Other Pieces:

For the other pieces though, there are varying names. Some of the basic shapes are here:

red jigsaw puzzle piece with one tab, 3 blanks       green jigsaw puzzle piece with 3 tabs, 1 blank       blue jigsaw puzzle piece with 4 tabs, no blanks         red jigsaw puzzle piece with 2 opposite tabs, 2 opposite blanks        blue jigsaw puzzle piece with 4 blanks, no tabs

The first red piece is composed of 1 “tab” and 3 “blanks”. Tabs and blanks seem to be the most common names for the parts that connect with other pieces. There are other names, though. Instead of “tabs”, some people like to call them “knobs”, or “bobbles”, or “heads”. The last blue piece has 4 “blanks”, but other names for those open spaces include “pockets”, “slots”, “holes”, and “indents”.

Names of Pieces:

Just as the pieces vary, so do the names people come up with for them. Some like to call them “innies” and “outies”. Others might call them “double wings” or “double ears”. Still others might think of a piece that has an even number of tabs and blanks as a “regular” piece, while one with an odd number of tabs and blanks is an “irregular” piece. I’ve also come across names like “male” and “female”, like used for hardware or electronics items.

More Names:

I’ve even heard of people who will give names to pieces with specific shapes. Take that first red piece, for example. Some like to think of it as a “human”. Well, you have to admit, it does look like a person, kinda-sorta. I think the other pieces are harder to come up with names for, but it is possible, and if that is something that you like to do, by all means, give them names!

Just as jigsaw puzzles have evolved over the years, so too have the shapes of the pieces. Some puzzles have pieces that don’t have any tabs or blanks at all. These types of pieces can make the puzzle much more challenging… and also much more fun!

Sorting the Shapes:

I like to group the various shaped pieces in separate areas per shape. So, what I do is sort all of the “human” shaped pieces together… just line them up in several rows. Then I sort all of the pieces with 2 tabs and 2 blanks… line them up in rows, just like the “human” pieces. I keep doing this for all of the different shapes until I have them all sorted. It makes it easier for me to find a piece that fits.

Sorting Refined:

I also tend to sort by color, once I have the shapes all sorted. Like, if you have a puzzle that is a landscape theme, for instance, then you will probably have a lot of blue sky. By grouping all of the blue pieces together, it’s easier to see the various shifts in tints, thus making it easier to place those pieces.

You may have noticed by now that I love to sort things! I realize that not everyone does, and that’s fine if you don’t. We all have different ways for solving things and our own unique approach that works for each individual. The whole point is to have fun, so do whatever technique works best for you.

To Name or Not to Name:

It’s quite alright if you don’t care about what the names of the puzzle pieces are, or if you don’t care for the ones that exist and want to create your own. Some puzzlers like to think up very creative names for the pieces… and I think that’s great, although I realize it’s not for everyone, and it certainly isn’t necessary in order to enjoy working the puzzle.

So, either name your pieces, or don’t, but if you do, and if you have your own special names, please feel free to leave me a comment letting me know what they are. I’m always interested in what people come up with for the names of the pieces, and I would love to hear from you.

As always, Happy Puzzling!

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