left


left
   Contempt for the left hand as compared with the 'right is found in most cultures, past and present, and may have arisen simply because most people let its strength and skill remain relatively undeveloped; the English word comes from a root whose primary meaning is 'weak, worthless'. To this basic concept further meanings were added; already in the classical world the left was unlucky, ominous, and less honourable than the right, while Christianity associated it with moral evil through its description of a Last Judgement where the damned ('goats') are sent to the left, and the saved ('sheep') to the right (Matthew 25: 33).
   English traditions reflect all these ideas. It is presumably because girls are weaker than boys and (formerly) less valued in a family that pseudo-medical lore about 'conception and ' pregnancy links female foetuses to the left side of the mother's body. Though it is not said here that the left hand is 'unclean' (as it is in many non-European cultures), nevertheless it is never used in situations involving honour and respect, for example shaking hands, saluting, taking an oath, etc.
   The connection with bad luck is found, for instance, in the belief that a baby who grips with the left hand before the right will grow up unlucky; that if the first 'cuckoo calls on one's left this is ominous; that 'first footing is only effective if done with the right foot; and many others. The association of left-handed gestures with black magic is found in some ' witchcraft trials, and more consistently among learned occultists of the 19th and 20th centuries, who commonly speak of 'the left-hand path' to mean the use of magic for evil purposes; it is now well known through popular writers and film-makers.
   There is nevertheless one very striking exception to this trend: it is upon the left hand that, in Britain, engagement and wedding rings must be worn.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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