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The World's Longest Palindromes

Retired Article • Written by Daniel Lew

A palindrome is a word, phrase, verse or sentence that reads the same backward or forward. In 2002, Peter Norvig read that Dan Hoey had created a computer program that had generated a 540 word palindrome in 1984. Thinking he could do one better, Norvig created his own version of the program. Both programs were based off of the classic phrase “A man, a plan, a canal: Panama.” The algorithm puts words into the middle of the sentence while keeping the same beginning and end to make sure it is a palindrome. On Norvig's first try he was able to make a 15,139 word palindrome; after a bit of tweaking he created he created a 17,259 word palindrome, the longest one to date.

Single-word palindromes are equally interesting. Finnish has the longest single-word palindromes, with two entries: “saippuakivikauppias,” which means “soap stone dealer”; and “solutomaattimittaamotulos,” which means “the result from a measurement laboratory for tomatoes.” Depending on who you ask, “tattarrattat,” “kinnikinnik,” or “detartrated” is the longest single-word palindrome in English, though some would say these words are not really part of the English language, since they are contrived or almost never used.

For more information:
Peter Norvig's 17,259 Word Palindrome
Wikipedia Entry on Palindromes
The Palindromist Magazine

Article written by Daniel Lew, published on 15 December 2005. Daniel is a contributing editor for DamnInteresting.com.

Edited by Alan Bellows.

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27 Comments
Alan Bellows
Posted 15 December 2005 at 03:08 pm

Look, ma I am kool!


stevesearer
Posted 15 December 2005 at 04:00 pm

I just figured out the significance of the racecar picture.

Keep up the good work everyone! :)


Secret Ninja
Posted 15 December 2005 at 10:39 pm

Those are definately not real words...


JustAnotherName
Posted 16 December 2005 at 08:07 am

Wow! The racecar is an excellent illustration.


FunDaMentalist
Posted 19 December 2005 at 05:00 am

The Estonian word "kuulilennuteetunneliluuk" is one of the longest single-word palindromes as well. It means "the trap door at the end of the tunnel where the bullet is flying". I guess it's some kind of a military term :)


danielle
Posted 16 February 2006 at 10:07 pm

even though ive been trying to find a long palindrome, i havent suceeded. but i did find a really long-seeming one that isnt just seperated by commas.

try reading it if you havent already: heree

its really interesting. &those finnish&estonians are lovin up on those palindromes. XD


danielle
Posted 16 February 2006 at 10:08 pm

oh yeah, the one i just posted has 4963 words. it seems a lot longer because its not just like: a man, a plan, a canal, panama. its...well...just go see it!!


Mez
Posted 19 August 2006 at 07:28 am

http://www.fun-with-words.com/palindromes.html has a lot of interesting information about palindromes, and the rest of the site (www.fun-with-words.com) has a lot of interesting information about all sorts of other word anomalies


A-Train72
Posted 19 August 2006 at 03:04 pm

this guy must spend a lot of friday nights at home


Tink
Posted 15 October 2006 at 05:52 pm

stevesearer said: "I just figured out the significance of the racecar picture.


Keep up the good work everyone! :)"

JustAnotherName said: "Wow! The racecar is an excellent illustration."

Ok, am completly convinced I'm an idiot...Whats with the picture??!! I don't get it!


AgelessDrifter
Posted 30 November 2006 at 07:25 pm

----->r-a-c-e-c-a-r
r-a-c-e-c-a-r


Drakvil
Posted 10 January 2007 at 01:15 pm

Bruce Sterling's book "Zeitgeist" has a character that speaks almost entirely in palindromes...
"O javanese navajo"


Tink
Posted 03 June 2007 at 03:10 pm

AgelessDrifter said: "—–>r-a-c-e-c-a-r

r-a-c-e-c-a-r"

LOL,thanks, gawd,I Am a Dumbass!


Kao_Valin
Posted 20 August 2007 at 10:01 am

On an episode of Home Movies, they mention the palidrome racecar. That is the only reason I knew why racecar was clever, so don't feel bad Tink.


Greenvanholzer
Posted 26 January 2008 at 10:54 am

Madam I'm Adam! -Thus, the 1st words ever spoken were a palindrome.


Greenvanholzer
Posted 26 January 2008 at 12:58 pm

Indubitably, immediately after proclaiming this introductory palindrome to Eve, Adam became the first jerk to commit the original sin of shouting, FIRST!


Greenvanholzer
Posted 09 March 2008 at 09:47 am

piffle4
Posted 02 June 2008 at 12:17 pm

aibohphobia is a fear of palindromes


drogulous
Posted 30 June 2008 at 04:11 am

There are two noticeable mistakes in this article. The first is a grammatical error. The phrase "based off..." should be "based on..." or something similar. Secondly, there are unnecessarily repeated words in the last sentence of the first paragraph.


Ratsoup
Posted 21 November 2008 at 09:01 am

[quoute:"FunDaMentalist"]
FunDaMentalist #5 December 19th, 2005 5:00 am

The Estonian word "kuulilennuteetunneliluuk" is one of the longest single-word palindromes as well. It means "the trap door at the end of the tunnel where the bullet is flying". I guess it's some kind of a military term :)

Good think I read all the comments before posting. I was going to post the same word :) It beats both the Finnish palindromes 8)
Go Estonia !

Märt


allduerespect88
Posted 06 December 2008 at 04:40 am

Rise to vote sir!

Anyone got any cool anagrams?


AngloCelt
Posted 22 April 2009 at 11:17 am

Secret Ninja said: "Those are definately not real words…"

Nor is "definately" a real word! Try 'Definitely'. :-)


wombat247
Posted 10 October 2009 at 06:19 am

Madam in Eden, I'm Adam.


Blasius
Posted 12 October 2009 at 03:52 pm

Hungarian is considered to be a Finno-Ugric language in the Uralic language family, as are Finnish and Estonian, too. To the best of my knowledge, the longest palindromic sentence that makes sense is in Hungarian:
"Kis erek mentén, láp sík ölén, oda van a bánya rabja, jaj Baranyában
a vadon élö Kis Pálnét nem keresik." "Along the small streams and in the flat lap of the moorland gone the prisoner of the mine: alas, nobody looks for Mrs. Pál Kis, who lived in the woods of Baranya." (Created by Demők, Béla.)
Not too bad, is it? (Hungarian is my mother tongue, although I am an American citizen living in Sweden.)


Julie
Posted 31 December 2013 at 05:17 am

Blasius said: "Hungarian is considered to be a Finno-Ugric language in the Uralic language family, as are Finnish and Estonian, too. To the best of my knowledge, the longest palindromic sentence that makes sense is in Hungarian:"Kis erek mentén, láp sík ölén, oda van a bánya rabja, jaj Baranyábana vadon élö Kis Pálnét nem keresik." "Along the small streams and in the flat lap of the moorland gone the prisoner of the mine: alas, nobody looks for Mrs. Pál Kis, who lived in the woods of Baranya." (Created by Demők, Béla.)Not too bad, is it? (Hungarian is my mother tongue, although I am an American citizen living in Sweden.)"

That is too wonderful! I laughed myself sick over the translation. Poor Mrs. Pal Kis!

And to add my own:

Straw? No, too stupid a fad. I put soot on warts.


Geoffrey
Posted 01 February 2014 at 03:16 pm

"Satan oscillate my metallic sonatas" is a palindrome courtesy of the band Ministry.


tom
Posted 14 June 2014 at 12:57 pm

Secret Ninja said: "Those are definately not real words..."

Neither is definately


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