What is a Semordnilap?

alex atkins bookshelf wordsAlthough is sounds like a Swedish dish, a semordnilap is a word, phrase, or sentence that can be read in reverse with a different meaning. The word, a reverse spelling of “palindromes,” was coined by Martin Gardner in 1961. An example of a semordnilap is “evil / live.” But perhaps the most well-known example of a semordnilap is: “dog / god” — the subject of much philosophical pondering.

So how is a semordnilap different than a palindrome? Although they are related, a semordnilap is different from a palindrome because the word or phrase that is formed from the reverse spelling has an entirely different meaning; in a palindrome the meaning is exactly the same if read in either direction. For example, the palindrome “Madam I’m Adam” reads the same backward as forward. Palindromic words like noon, civic, radar, level, and madam all have the same meaning spelled backward and forward.

Interestingly, the word semordnilaps has many synonyms: anadromes, antigram, half-palindromes, heteropalindromes, mynoretehs, reversible anagrams,  reversgrams, semi-palindromes, and word reversals.

Here are samples of semordnilaps:

avid / diva

desserts / stressed

deliver / reviled

devil / lived

dioramas / samaroid

drawer / reward

dog / god

evil / live

fires / serif

ogre / ergo

looter / retool

maps / spam

mood / doom

murder / redrum

repaid / diaper

rewarder / redrawer

straw / warts

strap / parts

stop / pots

swap / paws

Read related posts: What is a Phantonym?
What is the Longest Word in English Language?
Word Oddities: Fun with Vowels

What is an Abecedarian Insult?
Difficult Tongue Twisters
Rare Anatomy Words
What Rhymes with Orange?
Words with Letters in Alphabetical Order

For further reading: A Word a Day by Anu Garg
Oddities and Curiosities of Words and Literature by C. C. Bombaugh





2 responses to “What is a Semordnilap?

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