European Palindromes

If Europe were once united in the sharing of its common inheritance there would be no limit to the happiness, the prosperity, and the glory which its 300,000,000 or 400,000,000 people would enjoy.

Winston Churchill

You may not know what a palindrome is, but you surely have read at least one in your life. A palindrome is a sentence whose meaning may be read and interpreted the same way in either forward or reverse direction. “Madam, I’m Adam” for instance. And European languages gave birth to thousands of them! Some languages are really appropriate to build palindromes and others are somehow less “malleable”. The word “palindrome” itself is a European invention, as it was coined in the 17th century by the English writer Ben Jonson. Germans even came up with the palindromic word “Eibohphobie” to describe the hypothetical “fear of palindromes”. The list below include some of the most famous or funny palindromes around Europe. You will be happy to learn that “Romanians are aces in love”, “in the morning even yogurt makes you fat” in Serbia, “Cheese has a smell” in Croatia, “Karin shave well” in Sweden, or “mice have no grandsons” in Italy… Now, more than ever, let’s have fun with words!

Portugal

« Roma me tem amor » 

Our first palindrome is about love – which is a nice way to start our list with. “Roma me tem amor” means “Rome has love for me”. Other funny palindromes are “Erro comum ocorre” (Common mistakes happen), “A mala nada na lama” (The suitcase swims in the mud) or “Rola com o calor” (It happens with the heat). What happens? We have some ideas… The Brazilian palindrome “Socorram-me, subi no ônibus em Marrocos” sounds quite scary… It means in English: “Help me, I took up the bus in Morocco”.

Spain

« Dábale arroz a la zorra el abad »

“Dábale arroz a la zorra el abad” is regarded as one of the most famous Spanish palindromes. It means “The abbot was giving the vixen rice”. Not very appetising… Other palindromes in Spanish include: “Anita lava la tina” (Anita washes the bathtub), “No lo cases a Colón” (Don’t marry Columbus), “Adán no cede con Eva, Yavé no cede con nada” (Adam doesn’t give in to Eve, Yahweh doesn’t give in to anything) or even the philosophical one “Yo soy” (I am).

France – Belgium

« Engage le jeu que je le gagne »

France’s most famous palindrome is without doubt “Engage le jeu que je le gagne“. It would translate as: “kick off the game, so that I win it”. Sounds a bit cliché on French alleged arrogance, right? Other common French palindromes are: “Élu par cette crapule“. (Elected by that toad), “Réussir à Paris : suer” (Succeed in Paris:  sweat), “Esope reste ici et se repose” (Aesop remains here and rests) or “Et la marine va, papa, venir à Malte” (And the ships will, dad, come to Malta) which is attributed to Victor Hugo. Himself.

Iceland

« Vá! Má merk skatan nota tonnatakskrem á máv? »

There are not so many palindromes in Iceland, – come on, the language itself sounds like a gigantic tongue twister. But “Vá! Má merk skatan nota tonnatakskrem á máv?” may be one of the most famous and… entertaining. We would translate it in English as “Wow! Can the distinguished skate use superglue cream on a seagull?” Yes, Superglue on a seagull. At least they don’t eat it here. Another palindrome is: “Amma sá afa káfa af ákafa á Samma” (Grandma saw grandpa grope Sam with fervour).

Ireland

« A Nóinín, níl an rí anocht ar Ráth Conair, ná linn in Iona »

It is quite a difficult task to find palindromes in Gaelic but this one is rather funny “A Nóinín, níl an rí anocht ar Ráth Conair, ná linn in Iona” means “Daisy, the king is neither on Conair’s fort tonight, nor with us in Iona”. If you have other palindromes in Irish, do not hesitate to drop us a mail, so that we can improve this list!

United Kingdom

« A man, a plan, a canal: Panama »

“A man, a plan, a canal: Panama”. The sentence makes sense and the rhythm is easy. The most famous English palindrome is probably the one you will easily remember to shine in society. Other famous palindromes include : “Murder for a jar of red rum”, “Madam, I’m Adam”, “Was it a cat I saw?”, “Rise to vote, sir”, “Anne, I stay a day at Sienna” or more pet-friendly ones: “Do geese see God?”, “Rats live on no evil star” and “Step on no pets”…

Norway

« Agnes i senga »

The short Norwegian palindrome “Agnes i senga” simply means “Agnes in the bed”. Probably to read some nice fairy tale. A similar one is “Anne var i Ravenna” which is “Anne was in Ravenna”. No idea what she has been doing there…  There is also a more surprising one: “Grav ned den varg” (Bury that wolf!). We also have this quite long one: “Rolf Are vurderer om Arons ni drag i gardinsnora morer edru Vera Flor” but it doesn’t mean anything: “Rolf Are evaluates whether or not Aron’s nine pull in the curtain string entertains sober Vera Flor”… Who cares? You wouldn’t understand it in Norwegian anyway!

Sweden

« Ni talar bra latin »

In the elongated country, “Ni talar bra latin” has to be learned by every school pupils. It means “You speak good Latin” – and we know about Swedes obsession with Latin! By the way, Swedes are also obsessed with personal hygiene: “Ni rakar bra, Karin” goes for “You shave well, Karin” and “Du har bra hud” forYou’ve got good skin”. But it’s not all! Their obsession also expands to monkeys: “anropa aporna!” (Call the monkeys!), or “God apa gavs galna anlag, svag apa dog” (Good monkey was given crazy genetic disposition, weak monkey died). Note that this palindrome – despite its questionable moral value – is quite interesting as all the spaces match, which is rare for long palindromes. Last but not least, the palindrome “Att ord idrotta” describes what a palindrome actually is about: “doing sport with words”!

Finland

« Neulo taas niin saat oluen »

Finnish language is appropriate to build palindromes. One of the funniest palindromes in Finnish is probably “Neulo taas niin saat oluen” which means “Knit again, you will get a beer”. But there is also “Nelli kusi sukillen” (Nelli peed on her socks), “Isorikas sika sökösakissa kirosi” (Filthy rich pig cursed in a stud poker gang), “Tissit, tosi isot tissit” (Boobs, very big boobs). One should notice that our Finnish friends also have 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”.

Denmark

« En af dem der red med fane »

You’ve all heard about the Danish “ø”. And this letter from the Danish alphabet has to be taken into account in palindromes – it would be cheating not to. A good example is then “Selmas lakserøde garagedøre skal samles (Selma’s salmon red garage doors must be assembled). Probably one of the most famous Danish palindromes is however “En af dem der red med fane” which means “One of those who rode with a flag”. And for your collection, other palindromes are: “Skal Eva have laks?” (Does Eva want salmon?), “Du er Freud” (You are Freud) or “Vær dog god, ræv!” (Be good now, fox!)…

Netherlands – Belgium

« Nelli plaatst op ‘n parterretrap ‘n pot staalpillen »

There are not so many palindromes in Dutch. Probably because the language is complicated enough. The palindrome “Nelli plaatst op ‘n parterretrap ‘n pot staalpillen” would be translated in English as “Nelli places a jar of iron pills on a stairway from the ground floor”. Other palindromes are: “Baas, neem een racecar neem een Saab” (Boss, use a racecar, use a Saab), “Mooie zeden in Ede zei oom” (Nice customs in Ede said uncle), “Lepel? Nee kok, een Lepel!” (Spoon? No cook, a spoon!). Or the word “Koortsmeetsysteemstrook” (Thermometer for measuring fevers) which could almost be an entry in our list of European longest words.

Germany – Austria – Switzerland

« Trug Tim eine so helle Hose nie mit Gurt? »

“Has Tim ever wear such light color without a belt for his pants?”. This is the existential question that our German, Austrian and Swiss friends try to solve in their famous palindrome. But it is not the only one. German also make jokes with “Ein Esel lese nie” (A donkey should never read), “Erika feuert nur untreue Fakire” (Erika only fires unfaithful fakirs), “Reit’ nie tot ein Tier!” (Never ride an animal to death) or “Alle Bananen, Anabella!” (All bananas, Anabella!). You can also be ironic with “O Genie, der Herr ehre dein Ego!” (O Genius, let the Lord praise your ego!) or “Eine güldne, gute Tugend: Lüge nie!” (A golden, good virtue: Never lie!). You see: German humour works!

Italy

« I topi non avevano nipoti »

It is well known that mice are too busy collecting teeth to think about their own future. They should, as “I topi non avevano nipoti” says the most famous Italian palindrome – or in English “The mice had no grandsons”. Another hilarious Italian palindrome is “O mordo tua nuora o aro un autodromo” (Either I bite your daughter-in-law or I plough a racetrack) – sounds like a fun game. You can also learn the following palindromes “Angela, la fata, fa la legna” (Angela, the fairy, makes firewood), or “Avida di vita, desiai ogni amore vero, ma ingoiai sedativi, da Diva” (Eager of life, I desired every real love, but I ended swallowing sedatives, as a Diva). Italians even have a complete palindromic poem entitled “Ode a Roma Dorata“.

Ode a Roma dorata

O città nuova, ti balen’amore, l’arte t’annoda.
Ci nuota, la sera, Morte ideale. Vidi matto, ratto, serrarti, Diva, i nitidi livelli ma i lati d’Eva, no! Nave d’Italia mille vili ditini avidi trarre sott’a’rottami di vela, e dietro mare salato, unica donna: te! Tra le romane l’abitavo, un attico…

A. Taro (d’amor aedo)

Czechia

« Jelenovi pivo nelej »

Oh dear! “Do not pour beer to a deer!” Or at least not in Czechia. This is according to the Czech palindrome “Jelenovi pivo nelej”…  Also, “Nevypusť supy ven” that is to say “Don’t let the buzzards out!”. If you are more into poesy, go for the palindromes “Kuna nese nanuk” which is translated in English as “A marten is carrying an ice cream” or “Kobyla má malý bok” which means “A mare has a small flank”…

Slovakia

« Matej je tam »

In Slovakia, palindromes are quite rare. The only one that you would find easily is the simple “Matej je tam” which means: “Matej is there”. Not as complicated as their tongue twister at least! But of course, as Czech and Slovak languages are close, you can find also Czech palindromes in Slovakia…

Poland

« Może jutro ta dama da tortu jeżom »

Let’s continue our trip down absurd-land with one of the most famous polish palindromes: “Może jutro ta dama da tortu jeżom”. It means, if we can call that a meaning, “Maybe tomorrow that lady will give a cake to the hedgehogs”. There is also a #MeToo palindrome: “Ada, panna pocałowana, woła: co pan napada” which would translate as Ada, a kissed girl, exclaims: why are you attacking me, sir”. If you are more conventional, go for “Kobyła ma mały bok” (A mare has small side), “Zagwiżdż i w gaz” (Whistle, and get a move on) or even “A to idiota!” (What an idiot he is!)…

Lithuania

« Sėdėk užu kėdės »

There are unfortunately not so many palindromes in Lithuanian. Or at least, palindromes we could find easily. We found this one for you: “Sėdėk užu kėdės” and it means: “Sit behind the chair!” – which, we must admit, is a quite a nasty advice. Do you have others? Share them without hesitating!

Latvia

« ātram slidas sadils martā »

Just as in Lithuania, palindromes are quite rare in Latvia. The palindrome “ātram slidas sadils martā” means “for quick one skates will wear out in March”. There is also “Alus ir(a) ari sula” which would be translate as “Beer is also a juice” – we couldn’t agree more on that!

Estonia

« Aias sadas saia »

Contrary to their Latvian and Lithuanian neighbours, Estonians do enjoy nice and entertaining palindromes, such as “Aias sadas saia” which means “It rained white bread in the garden” – you know how Estonians are with their breads… Or “Illar Annok ajas alla saja konna ralli” (Illar Annok drove over a hundred frogs’ race), “Kuulilennuteetunneliluuk” (The hatch of the tunnel of the bullet’s flight path (trajectory), “Sealuu laes” (The pig’s bone in the ceiling), “No sees on!” (Well, it’s inside!) or “No nisu ajaja usin on!” (Well, it is the wheat driver that is hard-working!). Just to name a few of them. The Estonian poet Ilmar Laban even dedicated a whole book to palindromes.

Belarus

« А гора падала да парога »

You can build palindromes in all languages – what is true here, is also true with Belarusian. The palindrome “А гора падала да парога” is rather poetic: “And mountain was falling to threshold.” You also have “А мара ліпы — піларама” (And the dream of a linden is power-saw bench), “Мала кашы шакалам” (There is not enough porridge for jackals) or the scariest of them all: “Я — сіла. Маліся!” (I’m the power. Pray!)…

Ukraine

« О, гомін німого! »

Let’s now quote a funny Ukrainian palindrome: “О, гомін німого!”. It is a feeling we all shared once, as it means: “Oh, the voice of this dumb man!” You will be happy to discover a rich variety of palindromes in Ukrainian, such as: “Козак з казок” (The cossack from fairy-tales), “Кіт утік” (The cat ran away), “Рис і сир” (Rice and cheese), “Три психи пили Пилипихи спирт” (Three crazy mates drank alcohol), “І мчу кіло бараболі Кучмі” (I went with a kilo of potatoes to Kuchma). In 1993, the Ukrainian poet Ivan Luchuk even wrote a palindrome composed of not less than 3333 letters and entitled “Епос і нині сопе”. The plot? “Epos still snuffles”…

Romania – Moldova​

« Ele ne seduc cu desenele »

“They seduce us with their drawings”: this is what the Romanian palindrome pretends. There are lots of other palindromes in Romanian, such as the pretentious “Românii-s aşi în amor” (Romanians are aces in love) or the pervert “Era nudă la Dunăre” (She was naked, facing the Danube). You may also want to taste Romanian cuisine: “Icre, pui, ciuperci” (Caviar, chicken, mushrooms). How does it sound? The list of palindromes is actually never ending: “Au o navă nouă” (They have a new ship), “Acru tip e Piţurcă!” (What a sour guy is Piturca!), “Era o tipă răpitoare !” (She was a ravishing girl) or “Maria bea, că e bairam” (Mary’s drinking for there’s a party going on).

Hungary

« Géza, kék az ég »

“Géza, the sky is blue”. It is simple so it is appreciable. You can also enjoy this Hungarian historical palindrome: “Rám német nem lel, elmentem én már” (The Germans won’t find me, I’m already gone). Some palindromes relate to other nationalities: “Indul a görög aludni” (The Greek goes to sleep), “Kár a papnak a rák” (Crab is wasted on the priest), “Rémes tóga bagót sem ér” (Crap chiton worths nothing), “Adósom a mosoda” (The laundry owes me), “Ìr a Mari” (Mary is writing) or “Legelöl ő legel” (He grazes uppermost).

Slovenia

« Perica reže raci rep »

Slovenes are not particularly known for being violent. But their palindromes are! “Perica reže raci rep” actually means “Laundress cuts the duck’s tail”. It’s not all. The palindrome “Ali se bo Ana obesila?” means “Will Anna hang herself?” or the palindrome “Osem opitih hiti po meso” would translate as “Eight drunk people run to get meat”. You also have : “Ema, zakaj ni vinjaka zame?” (Emma, why isn’t there any brandy for me?). Rest assured that, at least, “Maks ne želi sile ženskam” (Maks does not wish harm to women).

Croatia – Serbia – Bosnia and Herzegovina

« I jogurt ujutru goji »

You can build so many palindromes in Serbo-Croatian language! “I jogurt ujutru goji” is quite hilarious as it means “In the morning even yogurt makes you fat”. Another one of the same kind? “Sir ima miris” meaning “Cheeses have a smell”! You can also follow the advice “E sine, ženi se!” (Son, get married!), or “Uguraj u jarugu” (Push in the dish). You also have some sad ones “Idu ljeta, pate ljudi” (Years pass, people suffer), “Na sebe je besan” (He is mad on himself), “Imamo ono o mami” (We have that thing about mom) or “Oni vole belo vino” (They like white wine).

Albania

« Je hero Belul ti shit lulebore hej »

The Albanian palindrome “Je hero Belul ti shit lulebore hej” would translate as “You are hero Belul, you sale snowdrop”. And if you doubt it: yes, it’s quite miraculous to sale snowdrop in Albania… Another one is more into legal affairs: “Emir un’e takova avokaten. Urime!”. It means “Emir I meet advocate. Congratulations!”

Bulgaria

« Нещо метълът е мощен »

Are you looking for an amazing palindrome? This Bulgarian palindrome is then for you : “Нещо метълът е мощен”. It means… “Metal music is mighty!” We wouldn’t dare to disagree.  Other Bulgarian palindromes include: “А дават хубава лилава бухта в ада” (And they give you a nice purple muffin in hell), “Насила закараха свинете ни в Сахара, каза Лисан” (They took our swine to Sahara by force, Lisan said), “Aнархия и храна” (anarchy and food) and “Аз обичам мач и боза” (I love matches and boza). Who would have thought that Bulgarians are so much into metal, anarchy and hell? 

Greece

« Νίψον ανομήματα μη μόναν όψιν »

Greeks enjoy a really old palindrome which has been originally found in Hagia Sophia in Istambul “Νίψον ανομήματα μη μόναν όψιν“. It means “Wash off our sins, not only our face”. Another quite religious palindrome is “Νοσώ. Σύ ος ει ίαμα, Ιησού, σώσον” which would translate as “I am ill. You are healing, Jesus, save me”. You may also enjoy the polite formula “Σος ειμί, τίμιε, σός“, which means “Yours, I am, honest, yours”.

Turkey

« Anastas mum satsana »

The Turkish palindrome “Anastas mum satsana” says “Anastas, why don’t you sell candles?” We all wonder — why doesn’t she? Another one comes quite handy in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul: “Zamkı çok, o çıkmaz”. Why? Because it means “The price is high, it won’t sell”. Other palindromes include: “Ey Edip pide ye” (Oh Edip, eat pide – a kind of pizza), “Pay ederek iki kerede yap” (Share it and do it twice) or “Al kasada sakla” (Take this and put it in the safe).

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