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A Man, A Plan, A Canal – Panama!

In the first year after Fun-with-words.com was launched, over 200 of our visitors sent this palindrome to us, so we've given it a section of its own! It is probably the best known palindrome ever:

A man, a plan, a canal – Panama!

It first appeared in 1948, but James Puder believes that it must have been discovered before this. Read his Word Ways article: Who First Found The Panama Palindrome? But it is not the only Panama palindrome; in fact there is a whole family of them, some of them very long indeed. In 1983, Jim Saxe added a cat to the list, creating:

A man, a plan, a cat, a canal – Panama!

A yak (a kind of ox) and a yam (a potato-like tuber) can be inserted, lengthening it to:

A man, a plan, a cam, a yak, a yam, a canal – Panama!

Guy Jacobson found two more items that could be added to this extended Panama palindrome, making the 17-word:

A man, a plan, a cat, a ham, a yak, a yam, a hat, a canal – Panama!

The following fantastic version was produced by Guy Steele in 1983. It has 49 words.

A man, a plan, a canoe, pasta, heros, rajahs, a coloratura, maps, snipe, percale, macaroni, a gag, a banana bag, a tan, a tag, a banana bag again (or a camel), a crepe, pins, Spam, a rut, a Rolo, cash, a jar, sore hats, a peon, a canal – Panama!

The following year Dan Hoey used a computer program and the Unix spelling dictionary to generate a 540-word Panama palindrome. It doesn't read so well as the others because the simple program allowed abstract nouns and mass nouns like a ten, a salt and a wax.

A man, a plan, a caret, a ban, a myriad, a sum, a lac, a liar, a hoop, a pint, a catalpa, a gas, an oil, a bird, a yell, a vat, a caw, a pax, a wag, a tax, a nay, a ram, a cap, a yam, a gay, a tsar, a wall, a car, a luger, a ward, a bin, a woman, a vassal, a wolf, a tuna, a nit, a pall, a fret, a watt, a bay, a daub, a tan, a cab, a datum, a gall, a hat, a fag, a zap, a say, a jaw, a lay, a wet, a gallop, a tug, a trot, a trap, a tram, a torr, a caper, a top, a tonk, a toll, a ball, a fair, a sax, a minim, a tenor, a bass, a passer, a capital, a rut, an amen, a ted, a cabal, a tang, a sun, an ass, a maw, a sag, a jam, a dam, a sub, a salt, an axon, a sail, an ad, a wadi, a radian, a room, a rood, a rip, a tad, a pariah, a revel, a reel, a reed, a pool, a plug, a pin, a peek, a parabola, a dog, a pat, a cud, a nu, a fan, a pal, a rum, a nod, an eta, a lag, an eel, a batik, a mug, a mot, a nap, a maxim, a mood, a leek, a grub, a gob, a gel, a drab, a citadel, a total, a cedar, a tap, a gag, a rat, a manor, a bar, a gal, a cola, a pap, a yaw, a tab, a raj, a gab, a nag, a pagan, a bag, a jar, a bat, a way, a papa, a local, a gar, a baron, a mat, a rag, a gap, a tar, a decal, a tot, a led, a tic, a bard, a leg, a bog, a burg, a keel, a doom, a mix, a map, an atom, a gum, a kit, a baleen, a gala, a ten, a don, a mural, a pan, a faun, a ducat, a pagoda, a lob, a rap, a keep, a nip, a gulp, a loop, a deer, a leer, a lever, a hair, a pad, a tapir, a door, a moor, an aid, a raid, a wad, an alias, an ox, an atlas, a bus, a madam, a jag, a saw, a mass, an anus, a gnat, a lab, a cadet, an em, a natural, a tip, a caress, a pass, a baronet, a minimax, a sari, a fall, a ballot, a knot, a pot, a rep, a carrot, a mart, a part, a tort, a gut, a poll, a gateway, a law, a jay, a sap, a zag, a fat, a hall, a gamut, a dab, a can, a tabu, a day, a batt, a waterfall, a patina, a nut, a flow, a lass, a van, a mow, a nib, a draw, a regular, a call, a war, a stay, a gam, a yap, a cam, a ray, an ax, a tag, a wax, a paw, a cat, a valley, a drib, a lion, a saga, a plat, a catnip, a pooh, a rail, a calamus, a dairyman, a bater, a canal – Panama!

More Panama-Type Palindromes

Many palindromes similar to these Panama palindromes were discovered years before A man, a plan, a canal – Panama was first published.

In 1899, the following appeared in The Ardmore Puzzler; it is by T. H. Moscow.

A mar on a panorama!

Thirty years later, 1929, a wordsmith named Lubin came up with:

A dog, a panic in a pagoda!

And around 1970 James A. Lindon extended this to:

A dog, a pant, a panic in a Patna pagoda!

(Patna is a city of northeast India on the Ganges River.) Another variation of the pagoda palindrome, and the most similar to the famous Panama palindrome, is:

A dog, a plan, a canal: pagoda!

More recently, Edward Wolpow put his twist on it with:

A man appals; I slap Panama!

George Bush's invasion of that country in 1989 inspired:

A man, a pain, a mania, Panama!

And Jon Agee in his 1991 book Go Hang a Salami – I'm a Lasagna Hog, rephrased it as:

A car, a man, a maraca!

More on Palindromes

Find out more about palindromes on our What are Palindromes? page. There is more background in our brief history of palindromes article and you can also have fun exploring our list of palindromes. If you have enjoyed this page about the Panama palindromes, you will like the article discussing the Panama Palindrome's origin. If you want more, don't forget you can alway visit the palindromes books section of our online wordplay bookstore!

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