The indexes in the back of some books contain items which are listed with the first word at the end, e.g.:

  • An entry for "The Golden Goose" would be listed as "Golden Goose, The".
  • An entry for "baseball teams" might be listed as "baseball teams", but also as "teams, baseball".

Are there any English words to describe such a reversal, or to call index items which are displayed in reverse, or to call an index which contains such items?

  • These are just the rules for creating an alphabetical index. Just curious, why do you think there is a word for this?
    – JLG
    Apr 20, 2012 at 23:51
  • @JLG: There could have been a word for it, but in practice I don't think there is (apart from maybe alphabetised, or indexable). Apr 20, 2012 at 23:56
  • 2
    Rather than first-word-last, it's actually kind of Most-important-word-first. All the preceding words then move to the end, separated by a comma from the actual end of the phrase.
    – Kris
    Apr 21, 2012 at 4:50
  • @Kris: Yes, but "most important word" is context-dependent. Also, even if OP's goose were to be the "primary keyword", you might still want to consider whether golden is worth treating as a "secondary keyword" (giving "Goose, Golden, The"). I think mostly you'd probably decide against that, and index it as "Goose, The Golden" (in a book where geese where significant enough to have several entries in the index). Apr 21, 2012 at 14:08
  • There would be: 'goose that laid golden eggs, The', and 'golden eggs, The goose that laid'.
    – Kris
    Apr 21, 2012 at 14:15

3 Answers 3


In general, it's index style, but there are many different implementations.

For example, there could be a book out there somewhere with consecutive index entries for "Goose, Golden, The", and "Goose, Girl, The" - it all depends on which "keywords" are most important in the context of the particular publication.

The process of determining your keywords, and re-arranging the words in each entry to ensure the important ones come first, is called Alphabetization

Incidentally, Golden Goose, The - is far less common than Goose That Laid the Golden Egg, The.

  • It's both. Aesop wrote The Goose That Laid The Golden Egg, but The Golden Goose is found in the Bros. Grimm collection.
    – J.R.
    Apr 21, 2012 at 0:15
  • @J.R. Yeah, but if you add together all the Golden Eggs and Golden Egg laid, they're far more common than the Golden Goose - and I bet at least some of the people talking about a golden goose think it lays golden eggs (which of course, it doesn't - its value being in its golden feathers). Apr 21, 2012 at 3:09
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    " ... determining key-words ..." is not aphabetization. The latter, in simpler terms, is what we know as sorting.
    – Kris
    Apr 21, 2012 at 6:18
  • @FumbleFingers: Huh? What does that have to do with anything? Either one is a valid example for a title, contrary to your answer's final assertion. It matters not how many Eggs, Golden are laid by the story's title character. :^) Moreover, according to your own Ngram, the Goose, Golden is making a resurgence of sorts.
    – J.R.
    Apr 21, 2012 at 8:33
  • @J.R.: If you insist. Fact remains that even today, golden eggs/eggs outweighs goose by almost 2:1, and I still think some/many/most of the modern references to golden goose are mistakes. Look at the recent rise in killed the golden goose (it doesn't die in the Grimm tale, obviously). Apr 21, 2012 at 11:31

It can be called 'keyword-first'. In your example, the initial The is moved to the end so that the really significant word now comes first and therefore the entry will appear in the sorted index at the appropriate place (rather than under 'The').

Both baseball and teams are keywords (words you would want to lookup, which is what an index is for), so baseball teams appears twice: as it is, as well as rearranged on the kwd teams.

  • disclaimer: I'm an experienced abstracter-indexer for STM, but no authority on the subject. This is my personal 2c.
    – Kris
    Nov 8, 2014 at 5:48

For what it's worth, words like "the" and "an" are called "stop words" in the world of library science. Wikipedia has a good article on them here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_words

  • 1
    I had a feeling that, if such a term existed, the answer might come from someone with a degree in library science. When I did some preliminary research on this question, I couldn't find a term for this kind of cataloging, but I did run across several detailed standards for that sort of thing, like this one. Interesting stuff.
    – J.R.
    Apr 21, 2012 at 8:44
  • Thank you for the link; I was not aware of that particular standard. We only covered AACR2 and touched on its replacement, RDA (I took cataloging before RDA was official). Apr 22, 2012 at 1:41

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