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 one at least once 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 generated 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 have even come 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 then for instance 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…


« Roma me tem amor » 

Our first Portuguese palindrome “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). The Brazilian palindrome “Socorram-me, subi no ônibus em Marrocos” is quite funny. It means in English : “Help me, I took up the bus in Morocco”.


« 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”. 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 simple Yo soy (I am).

France – Belgium

« Engage le jeu que je le gagne. » 

One of the French most famous palindromes may be “Engage le jeu que je le gagne“. It means in English : “kick off the game, so that I win it” and is attributed to Alain Damasio. 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…


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

There are not so many palindromes in Iceland, but “Vá! Má merk skatan nota tonnatakskrem á máv?” may be one of the most famous and entertaining. It is translated in English as follow “Wow! Can the distinguished skate use superglue cream on a seagull?”, Interesting, isn’t it ? Other palindromes are : “Amma sá afa káfa af ákafa á Samma” (Grandma saw grandpa grope Sam with fervour).


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

This is not really easy to find palindromes in Irish but this one “A Nóinín, níl an rí anocht ar Ráth Conair, ná linn in Iona” is rather funny. It 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 submit them, so we can improve this list !


« A man, a plan, a canal: Panama »

“A man, a plan, a canal: Panama” is among the most famous English palindromes. Other famous palindromes are : “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 the funny ones “Do geese see God?”, “Rats live on no evil star” and “Step on no pets”…


« Agnes i senga »

The short Norwegian palindrome “Agnes i senga” means “Agnes in the bed”. A similar one is “Anne var i Ravenna” (Anne was in Ravenna)…  There is also the strange one : “Grav ned den varg” (Bury that wolf !). The following one is quite long : “Rolf Are vurderer om Arons ni drag i gardinsnora morer edru Vera Flor” but does not mean anything : Rolf Are evaluates whether or not Aron’s nine pull in the curtain string entertains sober Vera Flor


« Ni talar bra latin »

The Swedish Palindrome “Ni talar bra latin” is learned in every swedish school. It means “You speak good Latin”. Two funny Swedish palindromes relate to personal hygiene : “Ni rakar bra, Karin” (You shave well, Karin) and “Du har bra hud” (You’ve got good skin). Swedes seem also to be obsessed with 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 is quite interesting, as all the spaces match, which is rare for longer palindromes. Last the palindrome “Att ord idrotta” describes what a palindrome actually is, i.e. “doing sport with words” !


«  Neulo taas niin saat oluen »

Finnish language is really appropriate to build palindromes. One of the funniest palindromes in Finland may be “Neulo taas niin saat oluen” which means “Knit again, you will get a beer”. But there are 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 Finnish has also 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.”


« En af dem der red med fane »

En af dem der red med fane” means in English “One of those who rode with a flag”. The Danish language also includes other letters, such as “ø” so that it must be also respected in palindromes, such as “Selmas lakserøde garagedøre skal samles (Selma’s salmon red garage doors must be assembled). 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 to be found in Dutch. 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)…

Germany – Austria – Switzerland

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

“Did Tim never wear such light (in color) pants without a belt?” is an important question in German, as it is one of the most famous palindromes. But it is not the only one. German also have fun 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!)


« I topi non avevano nipoti »

I topi non avevano nipoti” is one of the most common palindromes in Italy, and it means : “The mice had no grandsons”. Another funny one is “O mordo tua nuora o aro un autodromo” (Either I bite your daughter-in-law or I plough a racetrack). 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“.

Czech Republic

« Jelenovi pivo nelej »

Pay attention : “Do not pour beer to a deer !”. This is what the Czech palindrome “Jelenovi pivo nelej” is about…  Another advice : “Nevypusť supy ven” that is to say “Don’t let the buzzards out!”. Other palindromes include “Kuna nese nanuk” which is translated in English as “A marten is carrying an ice cream”. There is also “Kobyla má malý bok” which means “A mare has a small flank”…


« Matej je tam »

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


« Może jutro ta dama da tortu jeżom »

Let’s continue with one of the most famous polish palindromes “Może jutro ta dama da tortu jeżom” which means “Maybe tomorrow that lady will give a cake to the hedgehogs”. There are also : “Ada, panna pocałowana, woła: co pan napada” (Ada, a kissed girl, exclaims: why are you attacking me, sir), “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!)…


« Sėdėk užu kėdės »

There are unfortunately not so many existing palindromes available. One can actually find only this one : “Sėdėk užu kėdės”. And it means : “Sit behind the chair!”. Do you have others ?


« ātram slidas sadils martā »

This is also the case in Latvia, where palindromes are quite rare. The palindrome “ātram slidas sadils martā” means “for quick one skates will wear out in March”. There is also “Alus ir(a) ari sula” that we can translate as “Beer is also juice”. This is right, indeed !


« Aias sadas saia »

Contrary to its Latvian and Lithuanian neighbors, Estonian can enjoy nice and funny palindromes, such as “Aias sadas saia” which means “It rained white bread in the garden”. Other palindromes include : “Illar Annok ajas alla saja konna ralli” (Illar Annok (Estonian name) 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!). In Estonia, the poet Ilmar Laban even dedicated a whole book to palindromes.


« А гора падала да парога »

One can build palindromes in every languages, and it is of course possible in Belarusian. The palindrome “А гора падала да парога” is quite 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 frightening: “Я — сіла. Маліся!” (I’m the power. Pray!)…


« А гора падала да парога »

One can build palindromes in every languages, and it is of course possible in Belarusian. The palindrome “А гора падала да парога” is quite 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 frightening: “Я — сіла. Маліся!” (I’m the power. Pray!)…

Romania – Moldova​

« Ele ne seduc cu desenele »

“They seduce us with their drawings.” : this is what the Romanian palindrome says. There are lots of other palindromes in Romanian, such as these funny examples : “Românii-s aşi în amor” (Romanians are aces in love), “Era nudă la Dunăre” (She was naked, facing the Danube). You may be interested in a nice meal : “Icre, pui, ciuperci” (Caviar, chicken, mushrooms). There are also other palindromes “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).


« Géza, kék az ég »

“Géza, the sky is blue” is a simple Hungarian palindrome. You can find also a historical palindrome : “Rám német nem lel, elmentem én már” (The Germans won’t find me, I’m already gone). Other palindromes are : “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).


« Perica reže raci rep »

One of the most famous Slovene palindrome “Perica reže raci rep” actually means “Laundress cuts the duck’s tail”. But there are other weird palindromes such as “Ali se bo Ana obesila?” (Will Anna hang herself?), “Osem opitih hiti po meso” (Eight drunk people run to get meat), “V elipsi spi lev” (In an ellipse there sleeps a lion). You also have : “Ema, zakaj ni vinjaka zame?” (Emma, why isn’t there any brandy for me?) or “Maks ne želi sile ženskam” (Maks does not wish harm to women).

Croatia – Serbia – Bosnia and Herzegovina

« I jogurt ujutru goji »

You can build lots of palindromes in Serbo-Croatian language. “I jogurt ujutru goji” is quite funny as it means “In the morning even yogurt makes you fat”. Another of the same kind ? “Sir ima miris” meaning : “Cheese has a smell” ! You can also follow the advice “E sine, ženi se!” (Son, get married!), or “Uguraj u jarugu” (Push in the dish). Then you also have “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).


« Je hero Belul ti shit lulebore hej »

The Albanian palindrome “Je hero Belul ti shit lulebore hej” means “You are hero Belul you sale snowdrop”. Another one is also quite famous : “Emir un’e takova avokaten. Urime!” And this means : “Emir I meet advocate. Congratulations!”


« Нещо метълът е мощен »

Are you looking for an amazing palindrome ? This Bulgarian one is for you : “Нещо метълът е мощен” and it means… “Metal music is mighty” ! Other Bulgarian palindromes are : “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).


« 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 is translated as “I am ill. You are healing, Jesus, save me”. And you have finally the polite “Σος ειμί, τίμιε, σός“, that means “Yours, I am, honest, yours”.


« Anastas mum satsana »

The Turkish palindrome “Anastas mum satsana” says “Anastas, why don’t you sell candles?”. There is also a quite useful palindrome to use in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul “Zamkı çok, o çıkmaz”. Why ? Because it means “The price is high, it won’t sell”. Other palindromes are : “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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