left

\ \ [13] The Old English word for ‘left’ was winestra. Etymologically this meant ‘friendlier’ (it is related to Swedish vänfriend’), and its euphemistic application to ‘left’ is a reminder that historically the left-hand side of the body has been superstitiously regarded as of ill omen.
\ \ To call it ‘friendly’ (a usage which survives in Swedish vänster and Danish venstreleft’) was an attempt to placate the evil forces of the left. (Latin sinisterleft’ is similarly fraught with negative connotations. It too had euphemistic origins – it came from a source meaning ‘more useful’ – and it developed the figurative senses ‘unfavourable’, ‘injurious’, etc, taken over and extended by English in sinister [15].) An ancestor of left existed in Old English – left or *lyft. But it meant ‘weak’ or ‘foolish’, and it was not until the 13th century that it came to be used as the partner of right. Its ultimate origins are not known.

Word origins - 2ed. . 2005.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Left — Left, a. [OE. left, lift, luft; akin to Fries. leeft, OD. lucht, luft; cf. AS. left (equiv. to L. inanis), lyft[=a]dl palsy; or cf. AS. l[=e]f weak.] 1. Of or pertaining to that side of the body in man on which the muscular action of the limbs is …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • left*/*/*/ — [left] adj I 1) on the side of your body that is opposite to the right Ant: right He wore a wedding ring on his left hand.[/ex] 2) on the left side of something the bottom left corner of the screen[/ex] We took a left turn when we should have… …   Dictionary for writing and speaking English

  • left — left1 [left] adj. [ME (Kentish) var. of lift < OE lyft, weak, akin to EFris luf, weak] 1. a) designating or of that side of one s body which is toward the west when one faces north, the side of the less used hand in most people b) designating… …   English World dictionary

  • left — [1] ► ADJECTIVE 1) on, towards, or relating to the side of a human body or of a thing which is to the west when the person or thing is facing north. 2) relating to a left wing person or group. ► ADVERB ▪ on or to the left side. ► NOUN 1) (th …   English terms dictionary

  • left — left; left·ish; left·ism; left·ments; left·most; left·ward; left·ist; left·ward·ly; left·wards; …   English syllables

  • Left — may refer to: * Left (direction) * Left (album), an album by Hope of the States * Left wing politics, the political trend or ideology← (left or left arrow) may refer to: * Assignment (computer science), for instance in the programming language… …   Wikipedia

  • left — n. group of people who hold radical and socialistic political views; left side, side opposite the right; left turn; punch made with the left hand (Boxing) adj. of or pertaining to the left, located on the left; opposite the right; of or belonging …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Left — Left, n. 1. That part of surrounding space toward which the left side of one s body is turned; as, the house is on the left when you face North. [1913 Webster] Put that rose a little more to the left. Ld. Lytton. [1913 Webster] 2. Those members… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • left — LEFT, (1) lefţi, s.m., (2) lefturi, s.n. (înv.) 1. s.m. Monedă de aur sau argint (în valoare de cinci ducaţi), din care se făceau salbe. 2. s.n. Obiect de podoabă femeiască în formă de colier sau de medalion. – Din ngr. leftó(n) monedă mică .… …   Dicționar Român

  • left — [adj1] on west side when facing north hard to left, larboard, near, nigh side, port, portside, sinister, sinistral, south; concepts 581,583 Ant. right left [adj2] politically radical leftist, left wing, liberal, progressive, revolutionary,… …   New thesaurus

  • left — /left/ adjective 1. on the side of the body which usually has the weaker hand, not right ● The numbers run down the left side of the page. ● Put the debits in the left column. 2. not with others ● 10m new shares were left with the underwriters… …   Dictionary of banking and finance

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