A palindrome is a word – any word – that spells exactly the same when it’s reversed.
“Did” is another.
However, palindromes aren’t just limited to words – they can also include complex sentences and verses. Like, “a man, a plan, a canal, Panama,” which came to be known as the Panama Palindrome, and which, despite its complexity, actually makes sense.
This is more than can be said of most palindromes, which are – when all is said and done – kinda nonsense.
But if you’re a linguistic lover (like we are), come join us on a celebration of palindromes! We’ll be taking a look at some of the best (and funniest) palindrome words, phrases and sentences.
But first …
What are Palindromes?
Palindromes are words, sentences and verses that read the same both ways. Crucially, they also have the same meaning. If a word reads the same both ways but doesn’t have the same meaning, it’s not a palindrome.
The word “palindrome” itself has Greek roots, which mean “running back.” Makes sense.
The English version of the word dates back to Shakespeare’s heyday, sometime in the 1600s. That’s not surprising, since the 1600s was also the heyday of wordplay. You can imagine what such fun they had with palindromes back then!
Not just that, but perhaps the real fun with a palindrome lies with the fact that you’re largely free to ignore punctuation. You can be as creative (and as nonsensical) as you like.
History of Palindromes
Everything has a history, and palindromes are certainly not a new thing.
While new palindromes are created all the time (recent additions to our everyday lexicon include “yay” and “LOL”) their history goes all the way back to Classical Greece and the ancient Greek poet Sotades, who in the 3rd century BCE created what was known as the Sotadean verse. This verse was occasionally palindromic – and may have been so deliberately.
Over in Herculaneum, meanwhile, an ancient city covered in ash not long after the birth of Christ, a palindrome was found on a stone slab. In its original Latin, it read “Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas.”
Roughly translated, it means “The sower Arepo holds with effort the wheels.”
If you arrange it into a word square, you can read it in four different ways. Pretty damn cool.
Then there are examples of Byzantine baptismal fonts, which were frequently inscribed with a popular palindrome of the time – Nipson anomemata me monan opsin, which translated as “Wash your sins, not only your face.”
Fast-forward to Venice in 1802, where a Greek poet wrote a poem entirely in Ancient Greek, in which every single line was a palindrome. Considering that there were 455 lines altogether, that’s some feat.
And while the English language has contained multiple palindromes for years, English writers formerly were always more obsessed with Greek and Latin palindromic sentences. In fact, it wasn’t until 1614 when the first English-language palindromic sentence was written. The line was “Lewd did I live, & evil I did dwell,” and it was coined by John Taylor.
Today, English-language palindromes are more popular – and recognised – than ever. Indeed, there’s even a World Palindrome Championship set in the USA, while the Scottish poet Alastair Reid was responsible for this rather over-the-top effort:
“T. Eliot, top bard, notes putrid tang emanating, is sad; I’d assign it a name; gnat dirt upset on drab pot toilet.”
Quite. And that’s probably enough history for now.
Examples of Palindromes
Before we reel off a list of palindromes, let’s consider a few examples. The likes of “wow,” “did,” level,” and especially “mom,” are palindromes we use in everyday life, probably without even realising we’re using a palindrome.
“Hey mom! Wow, I just used a palindrome, so I did.”
“Huh? You did?”
“Yep, you just did, too.”
“Say what now.”
Over in Finland, meanwhile, is the palindrome saippuakivikauppias, which is allegedly the longest palindrome in existence right now. It translates as, “soapstone vendor.” So we imagine that only those who have a soapstone vendor will use it. Huh.
England’s longest palindrome is very possibly “tattarrattat,” a word that doesn’t really mean anything, but which the Irish author James Joyce added to his novel Ulysses to describe the sound of someone knocking on a door.
There’s also a chance that, you, dear reader have a first name that’s actually a palindrome, such as Bob or Eve. Or Hannah.
If you’re named Adam, you have to introduce yourself like this: “Madam, I’m Adam.”
Well, unless you’re introducing yourself to a dude. Obviously.
And if you live in Semmes, Alabama? Yep, your town is a palindrome.
Or maybe you’re a fan of the Swedish pop group ABBA. Yep, another palindrome right there.
List of Palindrome Words
As you can see, then, palindromes are everywhere. We’re going to reel off a list of palindrome phrases soon, but first let’s examine some of the more interesting palindrome words:
This one just sounds so funny when you think about it. Noon is midday – lunchtime, chill-time, time-to-eat-time. It also sounds like “moon” but moon isn’t a palindrome. Cause it’s not as cool.
Gag can mean a few different things (all gruesome).
You can either gag someone – as in, he was gagged by a mugger.
Or you can literally gag – as in choke, retch.
Context: “You make me wanna gag.”
Now, this is a really interesting palindrome.
Deified means to worship someone as a god. Like, you could deify your favourite pop group or movie star.
It’s hardly used in everyday situations. But now that you know it’s a palindrome, maybe you’ll start using it more?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, rotor means “the rotating assembly in a turbine.”
Basically, it’s the part of a machine that spins – and it’s a really nifty palindrome to use in mechanic-speak.
Heck, yeah! DVD is totally a palindrome.
So while DVDs themselves might be going out of existence, palindromes very much are not.
Tenet is the title of a recent Christopher Nolan movie. It’s also a palindrome that refers to a principle or a belief.
For example, “the prime tenet of the Christian faith is …”
Like deified, it’s not really a palindrome that’s used in everyday speech. But it sounds really cool (try it).
Yup, every time you enthusiastically go “yay!” to your mates, you’re using one of the most modern palindromes around.
Like “yay” and “DVD”, LOL is a recent addition to the library of palindromes. It’s entered the everyday lexicon of pretty much everyone in the whole world and it stands for Laugh out Loud. Which isn’t a palindrome. Awkward.
When you commit a deed, you’re also committing a palindrome.
Well, sort of.
Probably the coolest palindrome, rotator refers to a “muscle whose contraction causes or assists in the rotation of a part of the body.”
Not many palindromes have as many as 3 syllables, which makes rotator one of the most complex palindromes in the English language.
In fact, most palindromes actually have either just 1 or 2 syllables and typically consist of a vowel-consonant followed by another vowel-consonant – like rotor.
Fun fact about Racecar: Microsoft Word flags it as a misspelling.
Another fun fact: The post-hardcore band Reuben once wrote a song called “Racecar is Racecar Spelled Backwards,” thus introducing a whole gaggle of young rockers to the wacky world of palindromes.
Sorry, but we had to add it!
Perhaps one of the grosser palindromes is poop, which means …
… Well, you know what it means. We won’t draw you a diagram.
Ever taken a peep at someone? We probably all have, at least when we were kids. It means to “look quickly and furtively at something,” and we’re literally addicted to the way it sounds and may now use it all day. Just to annoy people.
And damn, people also sounds a bit like peep. Jeez. Palindromes are everywhere.
List of Palindrome Phrases
Palindromes aren’t limited to just words. In fact, the most fun and creative palindromes are the phrases and verses.
Sure, many of them are – shall we say – nonsensical and make little sense. But, why so serious?!
This next section is definitely for the would-be poets and wordsmiths who are looking for a little inspiration. Wanna create your own fun palindrome phrases? Then check these out:
Madam, I’m Adam.
Yeah, we went through this one earlier. You’ve definitely gotta use this at least once before you die if you’re called Adam.
And even if you’re not called Adam, you’ve gotta use it. Naughty.
Ma is a nun, as I am.
This palindrome is amazing – especially if you’re actually a nun.
And even if you aren’t – who cares?
Yo, Banana Boy!
Not sure who you could use this in reference to. But if you’ve got a buddy who looks like a banana, go for it.
Ned, I am a maiden.
If you’re a maiden and you come across a dude called Ned, this palindrome was literally made for you.
We’ve probably all used this palindrome at some point without even realising it’s a palindrome. Mind = blown.
Was it a car or a cat I saw?
Admit it – this is one of the best palindromes you’ve ever seen. Whoever created it is a god among us. We bow to thee.
Won’t lovers revolt now?
The thing with this palindrome phrase is that it isn’t nonsensical. It actually makes perfect sense and we might use it tonight.
Never odd or even
We have no words. Amazing.
Yeah, UFO tofu exists. Don’t act as though it doesn’t.
Okay, maybe things are getting silly now.
Evade me, Dave!
Honestly, the next time we bump into Dave we are using this.
Step on no pets!
I mean, it’s true. Stepping on a dog is animal cruelty and you’d go to jail. Palindromes literally teaching morals now.
Eva, Can I see bees in a cave?
It’s an interesting question cause – can you?
We’d never really thought about it before BUT it’s a worthy question.
The answer is, well, you can definitely hear them.
Emil peed deep lime.
I mean, the best thing we can say about this is that it’s a palindrome. That’s it.
Dammit, I’m mad!
We’re not cause we just found another palindrome! We happy.
Mr. Owl ate my metal worm.
We’re gonna guess that whoever created this one knew a Mr. Owl who ACTUALLY ate a metal worm.
Or maybe it was all made-up.
Borrow or rob?
That is the question. And this is a fantastic palindrome that makes sense. Unlike “Emil peed deep lime.”
As I pee sir, I see Pisa!
We promise this is the last reference to peeing.
A nut for a jar of tuna.
And the last mention of tuna.
Is There a Fear of Palindromes?
These days, there’s a fear of pretty much everything – including palindromes.
Yes, it’s totally possible to be afraid of words that read the same backwards as they do forwards.
Having a fear of palindromes is often referred to as “aibohphobia.” This isn’t actually the official wear for having a fear of palindromes – but it’s a palindrome itself. Which is kinda cruel, right? Because if you have a fear of palindromes, you’ll also be frightened of the very word which defines your condition.
“I’m scared of palindromes.”
“Oh! You have aibohphobia.”
“Damn! Can’t believe you went there.”
Naturally, whoever invented the word aibohphobia to refer to a fear of palindromes must have had a sense of humour themselves.
A very sick, twisted one, of course.
How About Palindrome Numbers?
It might seem strange (or obvious?) but the number 888 is a palindromic number.
So are the numbers:
… And so on.
Some calendar dates are palindromes, too. For example, check this out:
That’s a palindrome right there. Fun fact about this one: It’s also Groundhog Day!
How Do I Create a Palindrome?
Creating a palindrome from scratch is – unfortunately – not so easy. In fact, many people who love palindromes and would love to create them end up resorting to creating anagrams instead. Simply because they’re easier. Or maybe they’ll play linguistic games instead.
One cool rule to bear in mind when creating palindromes (aside from the fact that the word must read the same backwards as it does forwards) is to come up with an initial word – such as “never” – before writing it backwards.
Never = Reven backwards.
Naturally, this isn’t a palindrome. But you can cut “never” to form another word. In this instance, “even.”
Then, your aim is to go from there and create an interesting – but probably nonsensical – palindromic phrase.
Alternatively, you could use free palindrome generators on the internet if you don’t want to complete this admittedly mentally challenging task manually.
When creating a palindrome from scratch, it’s also helpful if you consider the possible combos that start and end words. English syllables typically start with a single consonant or finish with letter clusters, such as:
You get the idea. The problem is that most of these clusters don’t happen in reverse at the end of a word. Instead, at the end of a word we might find “wd”, such as in the word lewd. Or “rd”, such as in the word bard.
So what reversible combos are there?
Well, there’s “dr” (ward and draw) and then there’s “br” (brag and garb) – as well as many more.
If you list all the possible reverse combinations (or as many as you can think of!), you can then start putting some possible palindrome words together – and then you can start creating some palindromic phrases of your own.
At the end of the day, it’s about having a bit of fun when it comes to palindromes. Nobody really expects a palindromic sentence or verse to make sense (although it’s kinda amazing when they do).
And if you’re looking for some literary nonsense to inspire you, go re-read Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. While there aren’t any palindromic verses in there, the story is so much fun and so nonsensical that it may inspire you to create something equally as bonkers.