Palindrome

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A palindrome is a word, phrase, number or other sequence of units that can be read the same way in either direction (the adjustment of punctuation and spaces between words is generally permitted). Composing literature in palindromes is an example of constrained writing. The word "palindrome" was coined from Greek roots palin (πάλιν; "again") and dromos (δρóμος; "way, direction") by English writer Ben Jonson in the 17th century. The actual Greek phrase to describe the phenomenon is karkinikê epigrafê (καρκινική επιγραφή; crab inscription), or simply karkiniêoi (καρκινιήοι; crabs), alluding to the backward movement of crabs, like an inscription that can be read backwards.

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History

Palindromes date back at least to 79 AD, as the palindromic Latin word square "Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas" (The farmer/sower, Arepo, sows the seeds) was found as a graffito at Herculaneum, buried by ash in that year. This palindrome is remarkable for the fact that it also reproduces itself if one forms a word from the first letters, then the second letters and so forth. Hence, it can be arranged into a word square that reads in four different ways: horizontally or vertically from either top left to bottom right or bottom right to top left.

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