Sé verlas al revés’… the most beautiful Spanish palindromes

by Lorraine Williamson

Ama’, ‘oso‘, ‘a ti no, bonita‘ are just a few examples of Spanish palindromes (words and phrases that can be read from left to right or vice versa, with the reading in both directions having exactly the same meaning).

The etymological origin of the term ‘palindrome’ is to be found in Greek, formed by the words ‘palin’ and ‘dromein’. Moreover, its literal meaning is ‘to go backwards’. Although it also has the meaning of ‘to go backwards’, ‘to go back’ or ‘to go backwards’. 

Palindromes are often used to help pupils learn through play. This is done by arousing their curiosity to form the most beautiful words and sentences. There is evidence that this type of wordplay has been used and practised since ancient times. Consequently, there are many words with this property. However, the fewer letters there are, the easier it will be to find or form them.  The longest single-word palindrome in the English language, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is the onomatopoeic word tattarrattat, coined in Ulysses by James Joyce (1922). It refers to a knock on the door.  

Palindromes in Spanish 

The most common palindromes in Spanish are those with three letters. This is the minimum number of characters needed to form a palindrome. For example, ama (boss, landlady), ojo (eye), oso (bear), eme (the letter m) ara (ara, altar), ese (the letter s, that/those) efe (the letter f), dad (give!), oro (gold), eje (spindle, axis). 

With a few more letters, the palindrome words become more complex.  Such as erre (the letter r), elle (the letter l), nadan (they swim), salas (halls), somos (we are), solos (alone), anilina (aniline), apocopa (let fall away), sopapos (or sacrifices), reconocer (recognise, acknowledge), acurruca (shrivels/dives), etc. 

Cogesa Expats


Among the best-known palindromic phrases in Spanish is ‘dábale arroz a la zorra el abad’. Moreover, this translates as `the abbot gave rice to the fox´. This sentence is the most commonly used. And, consequently, appears in the dictionary of the Real Academia de la Lengua Española as a clear practical example. 

But far more sentences can be read both ways, one of the most ingenious is ‘Sé verlas al revés’ (I know how to see them backwards), because it is directly related to the meaning of palindromes. Other beautiful phrases are: 

Allí ves Sevilla’ (there you see Seville), ‘Aman a Panamá (they love Panama)’, ‘Somos o no somos’ (we are or we are not), ‘Amó la paloma’ (he loved the dove), ‘Isaac no ronca así’ (Isaac doesn’t snore like that) ‘Anita lava la tina (Anita washes the bathtub)’, ‘Yo hago yoga hoy’ (today I do yoga), and ‘Ana lava lana (Ana washes wool). 


Furthermore, in the world of numbers, there is also such a thing. This is where a number can be read in one direction or the other, with the same value. However, in that case, it is not called a palindrome but a ‘capicua’. This is a term from the Catalan language meaning ‘head and tail’. 

Baycrest Wealth

You may also like