Origins of Common Words - Sinister

About the history, origins, and definitions of the common word sinister.

UNCOMMON STORIES BEHIND COMMON WORDS

Sinister- Sinister, the Latin word for "left," has come to mean unlucky, dishonest, corrupt, crooked, awkward, and downright evil--all of which reflects a long-standing prejudice against the left side. No one knows why the left is so maligned, but theories abound. When the Romans practiced augury, some people say, they searched the sky for signs while facing north; thus unfavorable omens, which emerge from the west, were on the left. In traditional Arab cultures, the left hand is used for cleansing after defecation. Consequently, it is never used for eating or touching. Others trace the superstition to medieval times, when knights carried their swords in their right hands; the right arm accordingly grew stronger and more agile, to the detriment of the left. Or it might be something as simple as the fact that in a world of right-handed people, a left-hander is sure to meet suspicion and prejudice.

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