Please note, I'm not asking for a palindrome. I mean to say that only the word order is rearranged, not the actual spelling of the word. An example might be as follows:

First ladies rule the State and state the rule: ladies first.


3 Answers 3


They are still called palindromes, but are qualified by the term word-unit.

There are also word-unit palindromes in which the unit of reversal is the word ("Is it crazy how saying sentences backwards creates backwards sentences saying how crazy it is?"). Word-unit palindromes were made popular in the recreational linguistics community by J. A. Lindon in the 1960s. Occasional examples in English were created in the 19th century. Several in French and Latin date to the Middle Ages. - wikipedia


Chiasmus, would be my response.

Taken from literarydevices.net:

Chiasmus is a rhetorical device in which two or more clauses are balanced against each other by the reversal of their structures in order to produce an artistic effect.
Let us try to understand chiasmus with the help of an example:

“Never let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You.”

So in the example above, 'fool' and 'kiss' swap positions as noun and verb from the first usage to the second.

Incidentally, this is also a great example of zeugma.

In the OPs example, the first clause is mirrored in the second clause with the connective 'and' marking the mid point.

  • 9
    This...is actually a really cool term. From OED: "A grammatical figure by which the order of words in one of two parallel clauses is inverted in the other." However, without citation and a definition in your answer you'll probably be downvoted and possibly deleted. Can you edit to add the relevant information? Thanks!
    – scohe001
    Aug 2, 2018 at 19:54
  • 3
    This does not fit the example, so it is technically not a correct answer to the question, but good information.
    – Malachi
    Aug 3, 2018 at 15:22
  • 1
    I disagree. The original example from the OP features chiasmus quite clearly, with the exact words before 'and' mirrored afterwards. Aug 3, 2018 at 16:00
  • 1
    oh, I see now, they are clauses. so it is clauses balanced against each other. sorry. any minor edits you could make?
    – Malachi
    Aug 3, 2018 at 20:39
  • Yeah, I hate to downvote chiasmus (let alone zeugma) but they have nothing whatsoever to do with what OP was asking about...
    – lly
    Aug 4, 2018 at 11:14

The Dictionary of Wordplay by Dave Morice (2001, Teachers & Writers Collaborative) defines the term "word-unit palindrome" as you noted in the question. He also states that this type of palindrome is called a "pseudodrome."

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.