The word `palindrome' comes from the Greek παλινδρόμους. The word παλιν translates to `again', and the word δρόμους (or δρόμος) to `way' or `direction', and the combination is often translated to `running back again'. In the 17th century, the English poet Ben Johnson connected the word palindrome to the concept of a word or a sequence of words that reads, letter for letter, the same backwards as forwards. The palindrome concept existed long before the 17th century. Reportedly, the first recorded palindromes were written by Sotades in (again) Greece in the third century B.C.
`Palindrome' is an old word, which already appears in some early Greek texts. For example, it appears in the work Timon of Lucian of Samosata.
Timon of Athens was a citizen of Athens during the era of the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta (431 BC–404 BC). He was wealthy and lavished his money on flattering friends. When funds ran out, friends deserted and Timon was reduced to working in the fields. One day, he found a pot of gold and soon his unreliable friends were back. This time, he drove them away with dirt clods. Timon became an angry despiser of mankind, and his reputation for misanthropy grew to legendary status.
Another occurrence of `palindrome' is found in Diogenes Laërtius' book `Lives of Eminent Philosophers', which was probably published somewhere in the 3rd century A.D. Laërtius introduces Aristippus in Chapter 8.
Although the roots of the word `palindrome' are in Greek, the Greek themselves describe the palindrome concept by karkinikê epigrafê (καρκινικὴ επιγραφή; "crab inscription"), or simply karkinoi (καρκίνοι; "crabs"), alluding to the movement of crabs.