A palindrome is a word or phrase that's read the same way forwards and backwards (eg. race car). Is there a word for something that is pronounceable both forwards and backwards, but not necessarily the same word (or, conversely, a word for the opposite case where things are not pronounceable both forwards and backwards)?

Eg. in English speaking countries we call a certain large international organization "NATO", while in French speaking countries it's "OTAN" (both of which are easily pronounceable). Maybe there's a word specific to acronyms even if there's not a general word?

  • Since this is English language and usage, it doesn't really matter that I don't actually know how the French pronounce OTAN. But it seems unlikely they'd use the same long A as the English version (which would probably be spelled otane if we had such a word). Though I suspect if you actually played a tape recording of NATO backwards, it wouldn't necessarily contain any valid/recognizable English phonemes at all. – FumbleFingers Aug 28 '15 at 13:42

The closest that I can think of is a semordnilap. It's when a word or phrase makes another word or phrase when spelled backwards.


Note that semordnilap is palindromes spelled backwards. :-)

  • Oddly, at least in American English, that word itself is actually not the thing I was trying to describe (that "dn" isn't really pronounceable). But thanks, that's pretty close; I'll have to remember that. – Sam Whited Aug 28 '15 at 18:20
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    @SamWhited I believe that the pronunciation is suppose to be something along the lines of (se)-mord-ni-lap, accent on the (se). I think that it is ironic that semordnilap is likely a more of a meta word that was created using the very method it describes, but sort of does so poorly. I believe that semordnilapped words are suppose to generally be pronounceable. – Tyree Jackson Aug 28 '15 at 19:18
  • The Dictionary of Wordplay by Dave Morice declares "reversal" is the dominant word to use for this pattern. He also notes that this form of wordplay has had eighteen other terms over time. Those include anagram, heterodrome, retronym, and sotadic palindrome. Personally, I favor ananym. – Ray N. Franklin Oct 7 '20 at 22:21

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