What are palindromes exactly?

Eva Mohyrova
Palindromes are interesting and fun. If you want to learn how they differ and how to create them, we'll gladly help you. Read this article to find out more about the origin and meaning of palindromes.

What are palindromes? According to Oxford Living Dictionaries, a palindrome is a word or phrase that reads the same backward as forward: madam; “A man, a plan, a canal, Panama!”; nurses run; etc. It is based on Greek root words “palin” (which means “again”) and “drom” (formed from “dramein” and meaning “to run”). The longest English single-word palindrome is “redivider” when it comes to words in common usage. However, there’s a word that’s less common yet two letters longer—”detartrated”, which is a chemical term. Usually, the punctuation and word spacings are ignored when we create reversible sentences. Therefore, “Madam, I’m Adam” is considered a valid palindrome. However, that’s not always the case.



There are two other and less common types of palindrome besides the examples above. Word-unit palindromes are the ones in which the words form the same sentences in either direction. “King, are you glad you are king?” is one of those palindromes. The other type is mirrored palindromes. These are supposed to be graphically reversible. This means that the punctuation, spacing, and upper or lowercase letters matter here. This also means that such palindromes could be hard to form. Words like “MADAM” or “WOT TOW” are good examples of mirrored palindromes.
This also means that such palindromes could be hard to form. Words like "MADAM" or "WOT TOW" are good examples of mirrored palindromes.


Palindromes have a considerable history. They date back to about 70 AD—the first palindromes were found as graffiti at Herculaneum. The first known palindrome was written in Latin and dates back to Roman times. It read “sator arepo tenet opera rotas”, which could be translated two ways:
“The sower Arepo leads with his hand the plough”.
“The sower Arepo holds the wheels with effort”.

They date back to about 70 AD—the first palindromes were found as graffiti at Herculaneum.

Source: fun-with-words
Palindromes were also found in ancient Sanskrit, as well as in ancient Greek. As you see, people have been enjoying them for centuries. The situation is no different these days. Though the times have changed, many of us still enjoy good palindromes. There’s even a new word, “emordnilap, inspired by palindromes. Furthermore, palindromes are often used in poems nowadays. Just take a look at this palindrome poem written by Demetri Martin. If you read it, you might find yourself wondering whether or not it’s hard to create a palindrome poem (or at least a simple palindrome) by yourself. While we cannot answer this question for you, we can offer some tips on how to do that.


Palindromes might be difficult to construct, but if you practice the following, it’ll become more comfortable for you.


This might seem extreme, especially if you haven’t done this before. However, we don’t encourage you to read whole books backward. On the contrary, it’s better to start with something simple, something you could easily practice anytime you want. Most of us are surrounded by writings during the day: we have ads, announcements, and messages popping up everywhere. So, why don’t you start reading these texts backward every time you’re free to do so? This could make waiting in line or standing in traffic less boring and will also help you say things backward easier. Furthermore, if you invest more time into it, you’ll start picking up words easier. You’ll begin to spot word pairings that are good for palindrome creation: ten and net, live and evil, etc.
Palindromes might be difficult to construct, but if you practice the following, it’ll become more comfortable for you.


Though most types of palindromes don’t require you to maintain the spaces, it’s still essential to mind them. Sometimes it’s the space that makes the creation of palindromes more difficult; if you believe they should remain fixed, it could be hard for you to come up with the right words for a palindrome. Therefore, always pay attention to the spaces while reading, and try to practice re-spacing. With a bit of practice, you’ll realise that it could change things dramatically, like in this sentence: “A nut for a jar of tuna”.


Sure, it’s great when you come up with meaningful palindromes, but that’s not always the case. Remember the WOT TOW example from the beginning of the article? If you cannot come up with something that makes much sense, focus on less serious yet interesting palindromes like UFO tofu. It’s important to do so because creating palindromes requires a lot of focus on its own. When you focus on the meaning of the sentence instead, it becomes harder to pick the right words and could take more time.


Unfortunately, a lot of good things have already been invented before us—including many palindromes. You might spend a lot of time and waste a lot of energy only to come up with palindromes that have already been created. An excellent way to avoid that is to Google the words you want to use for the palindrome and to look at the most common examples of palindrome sentences utilising them. However, this could make things even more difficult for some of us as your mind might return to those existing options instead of working on new ones.
However, the main perk of palindrome creation is not the world fame that might come with it (but most likely won’t)—it’s the practice and the process of the invention that sharpens your mind and boosts your creative skills. Therefore, time spent on creating palindromes is never wasted. Take a look at these amazing palindrome examples. They might inspire you to create your own!
“Dennis, Nell, Edna, Leon, Nedra, Anita, Rolf, Nora, Alice, Carol, Leo, Jane, Reed, Dena, Dale, Basil, Rae, Penny, Lana, Dave, Denny, Lena, Ida, Bernadette, Ben, Ray, Lila, Nina, Jo, Ira, Mara, Sara, Mario, Jan, Ina, Lily, Arne, Bette, Dan, Reba, Diane, Lynn, Ed, Eva, Dana, Lynne, Pearl, Isabel, Ada, Ned, Dee, Rena, Joel, Lora, Cecil, Aaron, Flora, Tina, Arden, Noel, and Ellen sinned”.
“Eva, can I stab bats in a cave?”.
“No, Mel Gibson is a casino’s big lemon”.
“A Santa lived as a devil at NASA”.
“Murder for a jar of red rum”.
“Anne, I vote more cars race Rome to Vienna”.
“Mr. Owl ate my metal worm”.
“Oozy rat in a sanitary zoo”.
“Marge, let’s send a sadness telegram”.
“Doc, note: I dissent. A fast never prevents a fatness. I diet on cod”.