Backwards Names Have Hidden Meaning
Backwards names are fun and playful, and they’re also genuine baby names. Would you consider using one… or more?
Think of a name spelled backwards, and you might well think of Nevaeh. Whether you love it or not, it’s one of the great success stories of the last twenty years. It was single-handedly launched in 2000, when singer Sonny Sandoval introduced his baby daughter on MTV, explaining that her name was “Heaven spelled backwards”. The following year, it shot up in the US charts from virtually nowhere to number 226, and it’s been in the Top 100 since 2005, peaking at number 25 in 2010.
It also gave rise to dozens of soundalike names, from Naveya to Levaeh, which show that Nevaeh’s appeal is as much in its sound as its spelling.
But back to the backwards names. If you love playing with words, you might enjoy the challenge of finding a name that sounds good and has a hidden meaning. Let’s explore names that are reverse spellings of words, other names, or even themselves.
Backwards names from pop culture
Enola — Sherlock Holmes’s younger sister was on our screens last year in a Netflix movie based on Nancy Springer’s novels. It’s the mirror image of “alone”, which could suggest independence and uniqueness.
Nomar — Baseball player Nomar Garciaparra was named after his dad, Ramon.
Backwards name pairs
Some pairs of names are each other, spelled backwards. They tend to be fairly simple names, with two syllables and without clusters of consonants or vowels. Many have A as a first/last letter: it’s just so frequent in both positions.
If you’re thinking of using them for siblings, especially twins, they work best when:
b) They’re balanced in style and familiarity — otherwise the lesser-known one risks feeling contrived, or like an afterthought to their sibling’s name.
c) You’d like them both even if they weren’t anagrams. If you’re lukewarm on Noel and only considering it because it goes with Leon, or if you like Issac and Cassi but prefer the spellings Isaac and Cassie, then it may be time to forget the pattern.
But if the name is for one child, to honor someone else, these rules don’t apply so much. By reversing the honoree’s name, you could even create something new, like Nomar or Neleh. Or Nosila? Einra? Yelner? Oznek? The only limit is your ability to pronounce it.
We should also give a special mention to pairs of names that are made of the same elements, reversed. Such as:
Names that are words backwards
…Or ananyms, to use a technical term. Some of these names are deliberate backwards spellings, others are just happy coincidences. (Or neutral coincidences, depending on how you feel about limes.) Can you think of any more?
EmilEvanLegna — Not just a backwards spelling, but also means “wood” in Italian.LiamNacirema — This patriotic choice made the US charts once, with 5 girls in 2009.NevarNeveRafaRiaTessaTraeh — For example, vlogger Traeh Nykia.Wolf
This special category of names reads the same both ways — perfect if you want to have fun with spelling, or just as a little Easter egg when your kid tries writing their name backwards and realizes. You probably know about Hannah and Otto, but there are many more options. For even more palindrome names, check out this excellent list by reader ThatsAmore.