Backwards Names Have Hidden Meaning

Backwards Names Have Hidden Meaning

Backwards names are fun and playful, and many are also genuine baby names. Would you consider using one… or more?

These days, the go-to example of a name spelled backwards is Nevaeh. Whether you love it or not, it’s one of the great success stories of the century. In the year 2000, the singer Sonny Sandoval single-handedly launched it when he introduced his baby daughter on MTV, explaining that her name was “Heaven spelled backwards”. The next 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.

Starting off the New Year

Amongst the first babies born in 2024 was a baby girl named Evoleht in King's Lynn, England.

Backwards names from pop culture

Dnegel — Made headlines in Malta when a mother used it for her son and defended it against haters.

Enola — Millie Bobby Brown brought Sherlock Holmes’s younger sister to life in a Netflix movie in 2020, and last year it was one of the fastest-rising girl names in the US. It's already a Top 1000 name in England and Wales, and it's been super-hot on Nameberry this year, currently ranking just outside the Top 100 most viewed names. All in all, we've seriously got our eyes on this name. It’s the mirror image of “alone”, giving it a vibe of independence and uniqueness.

Lanesra — Fans of the English football (soccer) team Arsenal have used this name occasionally over the years. Sometimes with their partner in on the secret, sometimes not.

Leafar —Celebrity tattoo artist Kat Von D’s son is named after his dad’s pseudonym, Leafar Seyer. Dad’s birth name is Rafael Reyes.

Neleh — This name saw a tiny spike of use in 2002, thanks to a reality show contestant named after her grandmother Helen.

Nomar — Baseball player Nomar Garciaparra was named after his dad, Ramon.

Semaj — This James-flip has been given to hundreds of boys and girls. A big inspiration is the Jamaican psychologist and motivational speaker Leahcim Semaj, whose birth name was Michael James.

Traeh — YouTube mom Traeh Nykia is the best-known wearer of "heart" backwards, but her name has made the charts for both girls and boys since 2006.

Backwards name pairs

Some pairs of names are each other, spelled backwards. They usually have simple sounds, with two syllables and no clusters of consonants or vowels. Many have A as a first/last letter, as it’s just so frequent in names generally.

The very best duos are ones where both names are well-known and sound distinct, yet of a similar style. (Many a name-lover has had a lightbulb moment about Aidan and Nadia.)

Thinking of using them for siblings, or even twin names? They work best when:

a) They don’t sound too similar. Adela and Aleda are both lovely, but as sisters? Confusingly close, for most families. Names with different first/last letters are more distinctive.

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 like them both individually. If you’re lukewarm on Noel and only considering it because it mirrors 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 just 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. How about Nosila? Einra? Yelner? Oznek? Ilenna? The only limit is your ability to pronounce it.

Here are more pairs of names that work both ways. (Thanks to this list at Roses and Cellar Doors and this one at Ren’s Baby Names for extra inspiration!)

Adel and Leda

Agnes and Senga

Aidan and Nadia

Allen and Nella

Amir and Rima

Arden and Nedra

Ari and Ira

Ariel and Leira

Aron and Nora

Avon and Nova

Axel and Lexa*

Cam and Mac

Diaz and Zaid

Ellen and Nelle

Etan and Nate

Hakim and Mikah

Halil and Lilah

Iris and Siri

Ivar and Ravi

Leon and Noel

Miles and Selim

Nero and Oren

Meg and Gem

*Axel and Lexa are two of the twelve Vaneeno siblings, whose names all use the same four letters.

We should also give a special mention to pairs of names that are made of the same elements, reversed. They include:

Anne-Marie and Marianne

Dorothea and Theodora

Elijah and Joel

Harold and Walter

Names that are words backwards

…Or ananyms, to use a technical term. Some of these names are deliberate backwards spellings, others are just coincidences. Can you think of any more?

Palindrome names

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 Thats Amore.

Got a name story to tell? If you'd like to write about your personal experience with your own name, your child's name, names in your family or your culture, we'd love to consider your story for publication on Nameberry. Email us a sentence or two about your idea at

About the Author

Clare Green

Clare Green

Clare Green has been writing for Nameberry since 2015, covering everything from names peaking right now to feminist baby names, and keeping up-to-date with international baby name rankings. Her work has featured in publications such as The Independent and HuffPost. Clare has a background in linguistics and librarianship, and recently completed an MA dissertation researching names in multilingual families. She lives in England with her husband and son. You can reach her at