Words at Play

19 Palindromes You Might Not Know

Learn some fun vocabulary with these palindromes!

What is a palindrome?

A palindrome is a word that runs both ways—literally. The original Greek meaning of the word is “running back again,” from palin meaning “back” or “again” and -dromos, from the Greek verb meaning “to run.” (Think of a word like hippodrome, where horse racing occurs, from the Greek words for “horse” and “running.”)

Like a horse race, a palindrome takes a single element of the nature of something and makes it the singular focus of attention: for horses, it’s speed; for words, it’s spelling.

There are a few famous phrase palindromes like “Madam in Eden, I’m Adam” and “Able was I ere I saw Elba,” but probably none so well known as “A man, a plan, a canal—Panama.” Our Unabridged edition of 1934 used the moralistic “Lewd did I live, evil I did dwel” as an example, although this one depends on the spelling convention of the early 17th century to spell dwell with only one l.

English spelling is notoriously arbitrary and only sometimes phonetic, and these irregularities make the symmetry of palindromes rare and oddly satisfying. Individual words that can be spelled the same way backwards and forwards seem to have a certain magic to them: they ring true every time.

Let’s look at a few.

Palindrome List
  1. civic | see definition»

    of or relating to a city or town or the people who live there

  2. deed | see definition»

    a legal document that shows who owns a building or piece of land

  3. esse | see definition»

    in scholastic philosophy : actual being : EXISTENCE

  4. kayak | see definition»

    a light narrow boat that has both ends tapered to a point, is propelled by a double-bladed paddle, and often has a closed top except for an opening in which the paddler sits with the legs extended straight out in front

  5. keek | see definition»

    PEEP, LOOK

  6. kook | see definition»

    a person whose ideas or actions are very strange or foolish

  7. level | see definition»

    having no part higher than another

  8. madam | see definition»

    used without a name as a form of polite address to a woman

  9. Malayalam | see definition»

    the Dravidian language of Kerala, southwest India, closely related to Tamil

  10. minim | see definition»

    half note

  11. murdrum | see definition»

    MURDER, especially : a killing in secret

  12. pep | see definition»

    energy or enthusiasm

  13. radar | see definition»

    a device that sends out radio waves for finding out the position and speed of a moving object (such as an airplane)

  14. refer | see definition»

    to send (someone or something) to a particular person or place for treatment, help, advice, etc.

  15. rotator | see definition»

    one that rotates or causes rotation

  16. rotor | see definition»

    a part of a machine that turns around a central point

  17. succus | see definition»

    JUICE: specifically: expressed juice (as of a fruit) for medicinal use

  18. tenet | see definition»

    a belief or idea that is very important to a group

  19. terret | see definition»

    one of the rings on the top of a harness pad through which the reins pass


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