What Is a Palindrome? | Meaning, Definition & Examples

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

The list below contains common words that are palindromes.

Palindrome word examples
deed nun
deified peep
eye radar
gig refer
kayak reviver
level rotor
madam tenet
noon wow

Palindrome names

The list below contains names that are palindromes.

Palindrome name examples
Ada Bob
Ava Elle
Anna/Ana Eve
Aziza Otto

Palindrome phrases

Below are some examples of 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!

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.”
  • Paraprosdokian: 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.

Is this article helpful?
Kassiani Nikolopoulou, MSc

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.