What Is The Longest Palindrome In English?

text: "palindrome" (with "palindrome" also written underneath, upside down)

Poor Dan is in a droop. Sit on a potato pan, Otis. What do these—admittedly very unusual—sentences have in common?

They’re palindromes. Palin-what-in-the-what-now?

What is a palindrome, and what does it mean?

A palindrome is a word, sentence, verse, or even number that reads the same backward or forward. It derives from Greek roots that literally mean “running back” (palin is “again, back,” and dromos, “running.”) The word appears to have been created in English based on these roots in the early 1600s.

Words like hippodrome or velodrome also feature the Greek dromos.

So, a palindrome is like a word, phrase, or number that “runs back” on itself. This bit of wordplay is not the same thing as when you rearrange the letters of a word or phrase to spell another one. That’s called an anagram.

In palindromes, spacing, punctuation, and capitalization are usually ignored.

What are some examples of palindromes?

We use palindromes everyday without thinking about it. Common palindromic—that’s the adjective for palindrome—words include: noon, civic, racecar, level, and mom.

The Finnish word for “soapstone vendor” is supposedly the longest palindrome in everyday use: saippuakivikauppias. (What do you mean you don’t have a trusted soapstone vendor?)

The palindrome Malayalam is also of significant length. Malayalam is a language spoken in South India.

The longest palindrome in English is often considered tattarrattat, coined by James Joyce in his 1922 Ulysses to imitate the sound of a knock on the door.

Try your hand at this list of some of the hardest words to spell.

That’s 12 letters. As for the longest palindrome phrase? In 2002 (a palindromic year, we should note), computer scientist Peter Norvig created a program that generated a palindrome consisting of 74,633 letters. Talk about a man (with a) a plan

Palindromes can be given names. Consider the familiar likes of Bob, Anna, Hannah, Eve, and Elle. Place names can be palindromes too, such as Semmes (in Alabama) and Ward Draw (South Dakota).

Palindromes can also be phrases and complete sentences, such as No lemon, no melon, and Mr. Owl ate my metal worm.

List of palindromes and palindrome phrases

  • kayak
  • deified
  • rotator
  • repaper
  • deed
  • peep
  • wow
  • noon
  • civic
  • racecar
  • level
  • mom
  • bird rib
  • taco cat
  • UFO tofu
  • Borrow or rob?
  • Never odd or even.
  • We panic in a pew.
  • Won’t lovers revolt now?
  • Ma is a nun, as I am.
  • Don’t nod.
  • Sir, I demand, I am a maid named Iris.
  • Was it a car or a cat I saw? 
  • Yo, Banana Boy! 
  • Eva, can I see bees in a cave?
  • Madam, in Eden, I’m Adam. 
  • A man, a plan, a canal, Panama!
  • Never a foot too far, even. 
  • Red roses run no risk, sir, on Nurse’s order. 
  • He lived as a devil, eh?
  • Ned, I am a maiden. 
  • Now, sir, a war is won!
  • Evade me, Dave!
  • Dennis and Edna sinned. 
  • Step on no pets!

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Can numbers be palindromes? 

Numbers that read the same forward and back, such as 888 or 1,234,321 are called palindromic numbers. Calendar dates are another fun instance of palindromic numbers as many dates resemble palindromes when written in certain formats. For example, a bunch of the dates in February 2022 are palindromes when written in certain month/day/year formats: February 27 (2/27/22), February 20 (2/20/2022), and February 2 (2/2/22). That last one, Groundhog Day, seems particularly fitting as ol’ Punxsutawney Phil may be followed by his own shadow! And February 22, 2022—formatted in the US as 2/2/22—falls on a Tuesday, lending this palindromic the punning nickname of Twosday.

What is a fear of palindromes?

If you’re less than fond of this topic, you may need to add one more palindrome to your vocabulary. Aibohphobia is the word (unofficially) used to refer to an “irrational fear of palindromes.” It was created to be a palindrome itself, with the word phobia (“intense, persistent, irrational fear of a specific object”) humorously used—you guessed it—forward and back.

Dive into some truly weird words in English.

Variations on palindromes

Palindrome also has a specific application in biochemistry. Here, it is a region of DNA in which the sequence of nucleotides is identical with an inverted sequence in the complementary strand. GAATTC is a palindrome of CTTAAG.

What are your favorite palindromes?

Looking for a laugh? These funny words are a good place to start.

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