Guide to Literary Terms

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What is a palindrome?

A palindrome is a text that is the exact same read backward as forward.

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Last Updated May 26, 2023.

A palindrome is a word, phrase, or sequence of text that reads the same backward as it does forward.

Palindrome derives from the Greek word palindromos, which translates literally to “running back,” from palin (“back, again”) and dramein (“running”). The English form of the word was invented in the 17th century by playwright Ben Jonson.

Palindromes have been used since ancient Greece, where the phrase “Nipson anomemata me monan ospin,” meaning “Wash the sins, not only the face” was inscribed on numerous fountains. The first known palindrome in English was written by poet John Taylor in 1614, and reads “Lewd did I live & evil did I dwel.”

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