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File:Mirror writing2.jpg

Eighteenth century mirror writing in Ottoman calligraphy. Depicts the phrase Ali is the viceregent of God in both directions.

Mirror writing is formed by writing in the direction that is the reverse of the natural way for a given language, such that the result is the mirror image of normal writing: it appears normal when it is reflected in a mirror. It is sometimes used as an extremely primitive form of cipher. The most common modern usage of mirror writing can be found on the front of ambulances, where the word "AMBULANCE" is often written in very large mirrored text, so that drivers see the word the right way around in their rear-view mirror.

Research suggests that the ability to do mirror writing is probably inherited and caused by atypical language organization in the brain.[1] It is not known how many people in the population inherit the ability of mirror writing (an informal Australian newspaper experiment identified 10 true mirror-writers in a readership of 65,000[2]). Half of the children of people with the ability inherit it. There are more left-handed mirror writers than right-handed ones, probably because left-handed people tend to have atypical language centers in their brain. 15% of left-handed people have the language centres in both halves of their brain.[citation needed] The cerebral cortex (thin layer of dense brain cells covering the whole brain) and motor homunculus (relates to voluntary movement) are affected by this causing them to be able to read and write backwards quite naturally.[citation needed]

In an experiment conducted by the Department of Neurosurgery at Hokkaido University School of Medicine in Sapporo, Japan, Scientists proposed that the origin of mirror writing comes from damage caused through accidental brain damage or neurological diseases, such as an essential tremor, Parkinson’s disease, or spino-cerebellar degeneration. This hypothesis was proposed due to the fact that these conditions affect a “neural mechanism that controls the higher cerebral function of writing via the thalamus.” [3] Another study by the same university discovered that damage was not the only cause. The scientists observed normal children while learning to write, exhibited signs of mirror writing, thus concluding that currently there is no exact method for finding the true origin of mirror writing.

Notable examples

File:Da Vinci Vitruve Luc Viatour.jpg

The notes on Leonardo da Vinci's famous Vitruvian Man image are in mirror writing.

Leonardo da Vinci wrote most of his personal notes in mirror, only using standard writing if he intended his texts to be read by others. The purpose of this practice by Leonardo remains unknown, though several possibilities have been suggested. For example, writing left handed from left to right would have been messy because the ink just put down would smear as his hand moved across it. Writing in reverse would prevent such smudging.

File:Wikipedia leonardo.PNG

Wikipedia in Leonardo's style.

Matteo Zaccolini may have written his original four volume treatise on optics, color, and perspective in the early 17th century in mirror script.

Mirror writing calligraphy was popular in the Ottoman Empire during the 18th and 19th centuries among the Bektashi order, where it often carried mystical associations.[4] The origins of this mirror writing tradition may date to the pre-Islamic period in rock inscriptions of the western Arabian peninsula.[4]

More contemporarily, Columbia University Professor Hamid Dabashi is known to write Persian in mirror writing. [5] Piyush Goel(Dadriwala)also known to write words in mirror image in two languages in Hindi and English,as well as words in mirror writing from his side and opposite side too.It is very difficult to write.

See also

  • Ambigram
  • Boustrophedon
  • Transformation of text


  1. Mathewson I. (2004). Mirror writing ability is genetic and probably transmitted as a sex-linked dominant trait: it is hypothesised that mirror writers have bilateral language centres with a callosal interconnection. Med Hypotheses. 62 (5): 733–9.
  2. News in Science - Mirror writing: my genes made me do it - 02/06/2004
  4. 4.0 4.1 Library of Congress image bibliographic data.[1] Retrieved 19 January 2009.


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