The term “ambigram” refers to words or phrases which, in the usual representation, look the same as after rotation by 180 °. This means that the respective lettering looks completely identical when it is turned upside down. In addition, symbols that look identical from two different perspectives are called an ambigram. Not to be confused is the whole with the palindrome and the anagram. Anagrams are words that are formed from the letters of another word, with palindromes being words or phrases that are read backwards and forwards (for example, Otto, pensioner, storage rack, an ass never read, etc.).
The term is derived from the Latin ambo, which can be translated with both, and from the Greek gramma, which means Scripture. Consequently, the word could be translated with the word sequence of both fonts, which clearly points to what is at issue.
It is therefore a letter [or a symbol], which can be read from both sides. In most cases, this means a lettering which looks identical when rotated by 180 °. In principle, however, other rotations are also conceivable.
Ambigram shows the wording Wikipedia
The above example shows the wording Wikipedia, ie the name of the well-known online encyclopedia, and looks identical for a rotation of 180 °. Since you can see the rotation of the ambigram with your own eyes, you can get an animated representation by clicking on the example.
In principle, ambigrams can be made from every word, although there are, of course, sequences which are particularly suitable for the creation, whereas other characters are rather difficult to represent or appear illegible. In the widest sense, words that are given a different meaning or reflect a new word by reflection also belong to the ambigrams. An example:
The ambigram shows the boy and girl signature
Template: ambigram Boy and Girl by Basilemorin, adaptation: Wortwuchs (CC BY-SA 4.0)
The above example shows the boy and girl lettering and is an ambigram as a whole, since it looks identical to a rotation of 180 °, apart from the coloring. The two English nouns, boy and girl, are however special cases. Because the turned boy becomes too girl and andersherum. Nevertheless, since interpretations are possible from different angles, both are ambigrams.
In recent years, ambigrams in the German-speaking world have become increasingly popular, which can be justified by Dan Brown’s bestseller Illuminati. The protagonist of the work, Robert Langdon, is on the trail of the secret Illuminati order, which plans to destroy the Catholic Church. Already at the beginning of his investigations he must look at the body of Leonardo Vetra, on whose breast an ambigram is engraved, which shows the lettering Illuminati. Here is a similar example:
Original: 180 ° rotational ambigram of the word ILLUMINATES by Björn Wichmann, edited by: Wortwuchs (GFDL 1.3)
This example shows the German variant of the term: thus the word Illuminaten. Moreover, it is astonishing that the cloister is often associated with such symbolism, since there is no evidence that the illuminati used such ambigrams to represent them. It is at most possible that the Radical Enlightenment Order, which existed from 1776 to 1785, served the owl Minerva, which sat on a opened book, which can be interpreted as a symbol of wisdom.
Building an Ambigram
In the examples above, it is clear what is the principle. It is striking that the examples are strongly ornate to function at all. However, there are some letters and combinations of letters that are offered, and others that are complicated, with regard to creating such ambigrams. Furthermore, there are – albeit rare – quite natural ambigrams.
The acronym WM (world championship) as well as the English nouns pod (housing) or NOON (noon) and the international emergency signal SOS (see Morsealphabet) are quite natural. In this case, however, it is essential that the capitalization or lower case is adhered to and a suitable font is used, since the effect will otherwise be spoiled. Such natural constellations are rare in the language.
However, there are letters that are particularly suitable for the creation of such ambigrams, since they either give a different character when they are rotated, or represent a separate ambigram or are easy to vary. Accordingly, b, d, l, m, n, o, p, q, s, w, x, y, z, H, I, N, M, O, P, S, U, , X, Y and Z. Suitable numbers are 0, 1, 8, 6 and 9.
Basically there are no fixed