Beyond Words - Language Blog

12 Amazing Palindromes from Around the World

A unifying trait of all cultures and languages is playfulness — a desire to have fun with language, to twist it this way and that, and to create out of grammatical rules and restrictions a game of words and sounds that renders communication a dynamic and living art.

One way people have done this is through the creation of palindromes, which are words and sentences that read the same forwards and backwards.

The word itself is derived from the Greek meaning to run back again (palín = again + drom–, drameîn = to run). Most language historians credit the formal development of the palindrome to Sotades The Obscene of Maronea, a 3rd century B.C. Greek poet who was killed by Ptolemy II for insulting the Egyptian king with a seemingly innocuous verse, which when read backwards revealed a salacious critique. Though his work did not survive, it is believed that Sotades composed a fully palindromic version of Homer’s Illiad. For centuries, palindromes were known as Sotadic Verses. Luckily, we can enjoy the pleasures of palindromes without fear of being killed by the King of Egypt, or anyone else.

To celebrate the pleasure of playing with language, here are a few amazing English and foreign-language palindromes:


Perhaps the most commonly referenced English palindrome is:
A man, a plan, a canal: Panama!

American comedian and writer, Demetri Martin, recently composed the following amazing palindrome poem:

Dammit I’m mad.
Evil is a deed as I live.
God, am I reviled? I rise, my bed on a sun, I melt.
To be not one man emanating is sad. I piss.
Alas, it is so late. Who stops to help?
Man, it is hot. I’m in it. I tell.
I am not a devil. I level “Mad Dog”.
Ah, say burning is, as a deified gulp,
In my halo of a mired rum tin.
I erase many men. Oh, to be man, a sin.
Is evil in a clam? In a trap?
No. It is open. On it I was stuck.
Rats peed on hope. Elsewhere dips a web.
Be still if I fill its ebb.
Ew, a spider… eh?
We sleep. Oh no!
Deep, stark cuts saw it in one position.
Part animal, can I live? Sin is a name.
Both, one… my names are in it.
Murder? I’m a fool.
A hymn I plug, deified as a sign in ruby ash.
A Goddam level I lived at.
On mail let it in. I’m it.
Oh, sit in ample hot spots. Oh wet!
A loss it is alas (sip). I’d assign it a name.
Name not one bottle minus an ode by me:
“Sir, I deliver. I’m a dog”
Evil is a deed as I live.
Dammit I’m mad.


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

The longest published French-language palindrome is Georges Perec’s Le Grand Palindrome, a 5,566-word piece published in 1969.


La moral, claro, mal. (Morale, clearly, is bad.)
Alli trota la tortilla. (There jogs the tortilla.)


I topi non avevano nipoti. (The mice had no grandchildren.)
Autore, ero tua. (Author, I was yours.)


Socorram-me subi no onibus em Marrocos. (Help me; I got in a bus in Morocco.)
A mala nada na lama. (The suitcase swims in the mud)


А тот суп – пустота. (That soup is emptiness.)
Нажал кабан на баклажан. (The boar pressed the eggplant.)

If you have any amazing palindromes you’d like to share, feel free to leave a comment!