General English

  • adjective relating to the side of the body which has the hand that most people do not use for writing
  • adjective relating to people with left-wing opinions
  • noun the side towards the left


  • adjective not with others


  • noun the political parties which hold ideas in favour of change and furthering the interests of the working class and the poor
  • noun the political ideas which support change, especially in the interests of the working class and the poor

Origin & History of “left”

The Old English word for ‘left’ was winestra. Etymologically this meant ‘friendlier’ (it is related to Swedish vän ‘friend’), 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 venstre ‘left’) was an attempt to placate the evil forces of the left. (Latin sinister ‘left’ 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 (15th c.).)

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.