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Palindromes & Semordnilaps

Updated on August 31, 2017

What's are palindromes? What's a semordnilap?

Palindromes are words or even sentences that are the same backward as forward. Palindromes can even be numbers: 54345 is a palindromic number -- see, here it is backward: 54345. An example of a palindromic word is eye. Or how about pop, peep or pup.

Below is the definition of palindromes, and we'll get to semordnilaps a little later in this lens -- perhaps you might see some clues on the way and figure it out!

Check out the "Talk Wordy to Me" mug at

From Merriam-Webster , the definition of palindrome

Definition of PALINDROME

: a word, verse, or sentence (as "Able was I ere I saw Elba") or a number (as 1881) that reads the same backward or forward

- pal·in·drom·ic adjective

- pal·in·drom·ist noun


Study & write palindromes for fun and to increase mental agility

Find and study some palindromes to get an understanding of how they work. Read a number of palindromes of different types and you may find a new interest. Finding them is fun, but if you are a true palindome lover, you'll be hooked and you'll have to write some of your own. Here is another well-known palindrome: A man, a plan, a canal: Panama!

Latin Sator Palindrome
Latin Sator Palindrome

Even more palindromes!

How about word order palindromes? When the words of a sentence as used as complete units, with the same meaning forward and backward: Run Spot, run! Remember "Fun With Dick and Jane" (and Spot)? Word order palindromes are another easy way to start making up palindromes.

Even very complex palindromes have been around for centuries. Look at the Latin Sator Square, which dates to about 79 A.D. and contains the Latin words, SATOR, AREPO, TENET, OPERA, ROTAS. It reads the same top-to-bottom, bottom-to-top, left-to-right, and right-to-left..

Word nerds & grammar geeks unite!

Speak out and don't be shy

Wear your word-nerdiness proudly. I know, we once lived in our mostly solitary word worlds, wishing for that chance meeting with a scrabble enthusiast, or the one person (so it seemed) in our towns who could appreciate our puns. But now the internet has let us know that we are not alone. There are so many like each of us who revel in WORDS and all things grammarly. (and some of us love to make up our own words, too.) If you have a lens, blog or website on a word-nerdy topic, put it in the list below. If you don't have one, put one that you like by someone else. This lens is all things WORDY -- not just palindromes.

Palindrome numbers
Palindrome numbers

Numeric plaindromes

There are also palindromic numbers: 46464, 565 or 4224.The date February 20, 2002 is a palindrome when written in this format: 20/02/2002, but not in this format: 02/20/2002. Some people find it easier to start out by writing numeric palindromes and work their way up to simple words, then phrases.

Don't forget musical palindromes

Yep, there are even musical palindromes that sound the same played backward as they sound played forward. Some very famous classical composers dabbled in musical palindromes:

*Béla Bartók *Joseph Haydn

*Alban Berg *Anton Webern

And even some modern musicians, like They Might Be Giants. Their EP, "I Palindrome I," "itself contains visual, musical, word letter and conceptual (such as an ouroboros) palindromes in its lyrics." (From

They Might Be Giants "I Palindrome I" on YouTube - and a palindromic video! WOW

Check out the video of the song, then listen to Micheal McKean's reading of the lyrics. See the explanation by a commenter on YouTube below. And finally, check out the cute palindromic video, which is exactly the same forward and backward.

Here is an explanation by a commenter on YouTube:

this entire song is actually sort of representing a palindrome. for the most part, its pretty obvious the singer is singing about killing his mom for inheritance. but then when it says "see the spring of the grandfather clock unwinding. see the arms of my offspring making windmills. dad palindrome dad i palindrome i." it means time passed since he killed his mom and now his kids kill him for inheritance, saying what goes around comes around, which is what a palindrome does ;)

penguinlord333 1 year ago 26

And semordnilaps are...

Although the word semordnilap is not in the dictionary, explains, "Semordnilap is a name coined for a word or phrase that spells a different word or phrase backwards. "Semordnilap" is itself "palindromes" spelled backwards."

"The longest single-word English examples contain eight letters:

* stressed / desserts

* samaroid (resembling a samara) / dioramas

* rewarder / redrawer"

Read more:

Since a pair of semordnilaps makes a palindrome, it's easy to write palindromes using or starting with semordnilaps.

To palindrome or not...that is the question! - Do you like palindromes or do you consider them a waste of time?

In finding links and all things palindromic, I ran across a number of comments on different sites that surprised me. Some people not only didn't enjoy palindromes -- they vehemently felt they were a huge waste of valuable time, since they are nonsensical. Wow. See how fast I slipped that palindrome in? Watch again: WOW. It's easy.

OK, since I, a certified word nerd, didn't realize that there might be people out there who consider this a fluffy and useless waste, I thought we should take a vote and see just how common (take any meaning you like) that sentiment is.

Please chime in with YOUR OPINION.

Do you like palindromes or do you consider them a waste of time?

Demetri Martin Word Play on YouTube

Your turn: What do you think about palindromes and semordnilaps?

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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Some of my favorite ways to play around with words - thanks for sharing! Blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • deified profile image


      8 years ago

      i have always been a word nerd and blamed dyslexic tendencies for noticing palindromes in early childhood... some really crack me up and seem to be related somehow, for ex. diaper-repaid.. heehee.. oh, and you may notice my user name is also a palindrome. i find the numbered palindromes fascinating as well, but i don't spot them as easily as the word kind. thanks so much for a great lens!!!! :D

    • sousababy profile image


      8 years ago

      Very cool, you never know what you find in a word and plenty of great jokes have come from palindromes and semordnilaps.

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 

      8 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      interesting topic. thanks for the links.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image


      8 years ago

      Fun lens! Loved it!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      An intriguing topic. It's too late in the evening for my brain to try thinking up one of these.

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 

      8 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      So, how did you come up with this very fun and interesting list? You're on a roll now girl, so go to it!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      8 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Very interesting. I didn't know that the backward words were called that long, strange word!


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