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The following nine ten words (thank you Bass) are the only words in the entire English language* that have a certain extraordinary property:

  • bevy
  • by
  • girt
  • grit
  • hovels
  • lo
  • vole
  • wizard
  • wold
  • trig

What is that property?



* that I was able to find, based on a search of a 100,000-word English dictionary. (excluding names and abbreviations)

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  • $\begingroup$ Great question! $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Jan 18 at 22:53
  • $\begingroup$ By symmetry, shouldn't this count too? $\endgroup$ – Bass Jan 19 at 0:09
  • $\begingroup$ Did you search the dictionary by hand??!!?? $\endgroup$ – Brandon_J Jan 19 at 0:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Brandon_J - I used my hands to type in the code of the Perl script that did the searching. Does that count as searching by hand? :) $\endgroup$ – plasticinsect Jan 19 at 1:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Bass - That showed up in my list, but I originally discarded it as an abbreviation, and therefore not a proper word. But now that you point it out, I think I was wrong to leave it out. It's not really an abbreviation, it's just informal shorthand. $\endgroup$ – plasticinsect Jan 19 at 1:10
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I think the property is

that applying the Atbash cipher (replacing each letter with its alphabetic inverse - $A \leftrightarrow Z, B \leftrightarrow Y$, etc.) yields the same result as reversing the word.

In other words,

the first and last, second and second-to-last, etc. letters in each word are alphabetic inverses: B and Y, E and V, I and R, L and O, etc.

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The First letter is as far away from the beginning of the alphabet as the last letter is to the end.

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  • $\begingroup$ The words wood, birthday, and goat satisfy the rule you have specified, but are not on plasticinsect's list. $\endgroup$ – Hugh Jan 18 at 23:21
  • $\begingroup$ ah I see, the real answer was that the rule applied to the letters inside the word not just the ends. $\endgroup$ – Will Jan 19 at 0:08

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