A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

What do you call a word that spells a different word backwards?

April 30, 1999

Dear Straight Dope:

If a palindrome is an anagram that spells the same forward and backwards, what is an anagram called that spells different words forward and backward, ie. evil — live, star — rats??

SDStaff Songbird replies:

A palindrome is NOT an anagram.

An anagram is a word or phrase made from another word or phrase (in other words, it does NOT include the original word or phrase) by rearranging its letters. In the example of made — dame, the anagram is DAME.

A palindrome is a word, verse or sentence that is the same when read backward or forward (e.g. madam, I'm Adam ).

That settled, we are still left with your question (stated a bit differently because of your example): What do you call an anagram that simply reverses the spelling of the original word to create another word?

Call it a type of anagram, because that's what it is (as evidenced by Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary (second edition) which gives this second example of an anagram: now -> won).

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