What Is a Palindrome? | Meaning, Definition & Examples

Rhetoric updated on  December 30, 2023 2 min read
A palindrome is a word, number, or phrase that reads the same backward and forward, such as “civic” or “2002.” Palindromes can appear in names, places, and even unintentionally in everyday language. They are also used in word games and puzzles.

Palindrome example
The longest one-word palindrome in English is considered to be the word “tattarrattat,” coined by James Joyce in Ulysses to mean “a knock”:

“I was just beginning to yawn with nerves thinking he was trying to make a fool of me when I knew his tattarrattat at the door.”

“Tattarrattat” is also an example of onomatopoeia.

Palindromes add a playful element to language by encouraging creativity and wordplay.

What is a palindrome?

A palindrome is a type of wordplay where a sequence of letters or other symbols can be read in both directions. The term “palindrome” is derived from the Greek root words “palin” (back, again) and “dromos” (running), meaning “running back again.”

In palindromes, spacing, punctuation, and capitalization are usually ignored. For example, the phrase “Borrow or rob?” becomes “borroworrob” when we remove the spaces and punctuation and convert all letters to lowercase. Because it maintains its symmetry if read backward, it is a palindrome.

Palindromes are primarily used because they are entertaining for both readers and writers. Their appeal lies in the intellectual challenge they present. Constructing symmetrical words or phrases requires a skillful use of language. Writers sometimes use palindromes as a form of constrained writing, a literary technique in which the writer imposes certain rules and limits to their writing.

Palindrome examples

Some common palindromes include words, given names, or entire sentences. Palindromes usually involve reversing the order of each character in a word or phrase, but word-unit palindromes reverse word by word. For example, “fall leaves when leaves fall.”

Palindrome words

deed

nun

deified

peep

eye

radar

gig

refer

kayak

reviver

level

rotor

madam

tenet

noon

wow

Palindrome names

Ada

Bob

Ava

Elle

Anna/Ana

Eve

Aziza

Otto

Palindrome phrases

Palindrome example
Madam, in Eden, I’m Adam
Do geese see God?
Go deliver a dare vile dog
Never odd or even
A nut for a jar of tuna
A man, a plan, a canal—Panama!

Do you want to know more about commas, parts of speech, email, or other language topics? Check out some of our other language articles full of examples and quizzes.


US vs UK

Parts of speech

Rhetoric

Gray vs grey

Action verbs

Metaphor

Judgment or judgement

Stative verbs

Simile

Favour or favor

Transitive verbs

Alliteration

Fulfil or fulfill

Verbs

Anachronism

Labor or labour

Participles

Malapropism


Frequently asked questions about palindromes

What are some common types of wordplay?

Wordplay is using words in a witty, clever, and amusing way. Wordplay typically involves experimenting with the sounds, meanings, or construction of words. These are some common types of wordplay:

  • Anagrams: rearranging the letters within a word so as to spell another word or words. An anagram of “angered” is “derange.”
  • Puns: experimenting with the different meanings of a word or with words that sound similar, like “ate” and “eight.”
  • Palindromes: words, phrases, or sentences that are spelled the same way backward and forward.
  • Malapropisms: mixing up a word or phrase with a similar-sounding one that has a completely different meaning. For example, “a wealthy typhoon” instead of “tycoon.”
  • Paraprosdokians: ending a sentence in a way that is unexpected and causes the reader or listener to reinterpret the beginning, resulting in humor or surprise. For example, “there are three kinds of people in the world—those who can count, and those who can’t.”

What is constrained writing?

Constrained writing is a literary technique in which writers adhere to certain limits, patterns, or rules in their writing. For example, palindromes are sometimes used in poetry to create verses that can be read from the beginning to the end and vice versa.

Tags

Kassiani

Kassiani has an academic background in Communication, Bioeconomy and Circular Economy. As a former journalist she enjoys turning complex information into easily accessible articles to help others.

Great! You've successfully subscribed.
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.