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All about words

Palindromes — they’re the same backwards and forwards!

Published on January 27, 2019 | Last Updated April 12, 2022
person holding up a slate with palindromes written in chalk
(123rf/serezniy)

What do the words ‘kayak,’ ‘noon,’ and ‘racecar’ have in common? Take a look at them carefully. They can be read the same backwards and forwards!

A word, phrase or sentence that is the same both backwards and forwards is called a palindrome. The name palindrome comes from the Greek words ‘again’ (palin) and ‘to run’ (drom).

Can you think of some more words that are the same backwards and forwards?

The longest palindromes

A girl knocking on a red door

The longest English palindromic word is:

TATTARRATTAT

... which means ‘a knock at the door.’ Cool word, right? Because it sounds like you’re knocking on a door!

But the longest palindromic word in everyday use ever isn’t in English — it’s Finnish:

SAIPPUAKIVIKAUPPIAS

... which is a person who sells soapstone.

Your name can be a palindrome

Did you know that some people’s names are palindromes? Check out names like:

Anna, Bob, Hannah and Otto

Can you think of others?

Sentences can be palindromes

A rat's face poking out of a hole in a piece of cardboard.

Words aren’t the only things that can be palindromes, sentences can be, too. Historians have found evidence of palindromes from over 1,900 years ago. One of the earliest Roman palindromic sentences is: 

In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni

It means ‘we enter the circle after dark and are eaten by fire.’ It was written about moths.

Check out these funny English palindrome sentences that you can read forwards and backwards:

  • Was it a rat I saw?
  • A nut for a jar of tuna.
  • Go dog!
  • Don't nod.
  • No lemon, no melon.
  • Was it a car or a cat I saw?
  • Oozy rat in a sanitary zoo.
  • Never odd or even.
  • Step on no pets.
  • Mr. Owl ate my metal worm.

French palindromes

A cow's face up close.

But palindromes don’t have to be in English:

  • Eh,ça va, la vache? (And how is the cow?)
  • Engage le jeu que je le gagne. (Start the game so I can win it.)

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