Printable Version
Pronunciation: æm-bê-sin-is-três Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Equally clumsy with either hand, ambilevous. 2. Clumsy.

Notes: Since we have already discussed the more popular adjective, ambidextrous, it seems only fair that we discuss its ambisinistrous antonym, ambisinistrous. If you dislike the suffix -ous, simply ignore it and add an E between the final T and R: ambisinister is all you need. Today's word has been around since 1863 but rarely occurs in dictionaries other than medical dictionaries.

In Play: The basic meaning of today's Good Word is a clumsiness of the hands: "Unfortunately, I would have to say that Amanda Lynn is at best an ambisinistrous pianist." The metaphorical sense of this word opens the way to any kind of clumsiness: "Dexter's ambisinistrous interpersonal skills keep him off the guest list of most the social events in the area."

Word History: Today's Good Word came from Latin sinister "left". If right means "correct, normal", then its antonym, left, must mean "incorrect, abnormal", right? This thinking by the ancients left the Latin word for "left" with its current bad reputation as seen in the English word sinister. The prefix ambi- was the equivalent of Greek amphi, as in amphibian, a creature at home both in water and on land. The original meaning of amphi was apparently "from both sides", but later came to mean "from all sides, all around" in words like amphitheater.

Dr. Goodword,

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