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sinistral

Printable Version Pronunciation: si-ni-strêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. On or facing the left side. 2. Left-handed.

Notes: The antonym of sinistral is dextral "on or facing right." Sinistrally is the adverb and sinistrality, the noun from today's word. There is also a noun sinistration "turning to the left" which implies a verb sinistrate "to turn to the left", so the family of this Good Word is large and healthy.

In Play: Keep in mind that sinistral and dextral refer to a particular side of an object. The sinistral side is that side of an object when you are facing in the same direction. "I do not think that Pierre LePoupe is a climber accomplished enough to conquer the sinistral face of Mount Mukkimuk," refers to your right side as you look at the mountain's face. Of course, you may also use today's word as a noun, "Mazel Toffe is the most dexterous sinistral I have ever heard play a violin."

Word History: Today's word comes from Latin sinister "left-handed, unlucky" + the suffix -al. The suffix had to be added in English because of the sinister turn taken by the other form of this root, sinister, which originally meant "left-handed". Since Satan is often portrayed as left-handed, many cultures reflect a dark suspicion of sinistrals who do not pitch at baseball. Notice that dexterous took a turn similar to that of sinister, but for the better, forcing us to suffix this root, too, with -al (dextral) to get back "right-hander". (Many thanks to our lexically dexterous friend, Dr. Lyn Laboriel, for suggesting today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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