Word of the Week

August 16, 2014 at 2:19 pm | Posted in Miscellaneous | Leave a comment

It’s time to dust off this old Blog and begin regular posts again.
Each week, I will dissect a word; giving you its meaning(s), origin, proper usage, and pronunciation.
And, the word I have chosen to inaugurate this series of posts is:

Semordnilap: (semord ni lap)

Semordnilap refers to a word that, when spelled backward, forms a different word with a different meaning. Stressed/desserts, deliver/reviled, evil/live, swap/paws, not/ton, etc.

To use semordnilap in a sentence: Semordnilap itself is a sermornilap of palindromes.

To refresh your memory, palindromes are words which are spelled the same forward and backward; such as madam, kayak, civic, sexes, etc. Palindromes can also be numbers, phrases, or even full sentences such as:  A man, a plan, a canal: Panama. Palindromes are found in science, music, and even in different languages.

A semordnilap should also not be confused with an anagram. An anagram, by definition, is a word, phrase, or sentence formed from another by rearranging its letters. Examples of anagrams using a couple of the words I used above would be “relived” which is an anagram of both reviled and deliver, “vile” which is an anagram for both evil and live, or “wasp”, which is an anagram of both swap and paws. In a semordnilap, you are not rearranging any of the letters.

To my knowledge, you won’t find the word ‘semordnilap’  in any dictionary, but it has been coined to differentiate it from palindromes and anagrams. As far as I know,  there is no specific widely-accepted term that identifies words that are the reverse spelling of other, yet different words. The terms volvograms, anadromes, heteropalindromes, semi-palindromes, half-palindromes, reversgrams, mynoretehs, reversible anagrams, word reversals, and even antigrams have all been suggested as possible terms for these types of words, but none have caught on, and like the term semordnilap, most of them won’t be found in any dictionary either.

According to logologist Dmitri A. Borgmann, the word ‘semordnilap’ was coined by Martin Gardner in Oddities and Curiosities of Words and Literature.

Whether or not you decide to incorporate semordnilap into your vocabulary, you have to admit that it is a fun word to say.






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