Right in various languages

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by SSK_Toronto, Apr 30, 2011.

  1. SSK_Toronto New Member

    India - English & Urdu/Hindi
    My question is about the word right.

    In Romance, German, and Slavic languages, the word is the same for both side and entitlement (right side, human right).
    e.g. right, recht, droit, derecho

    What's the reason for this?
  2. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    Probably due to the association of right handedness with righteousness and left handedness with wickedness.

    This may be more restricted to European languages though, in Arabic they are not linked.
  3. ocanada3933 Member

    New York City
    American/Canadian English
    abu rashid has it right (no pun intended).

    because right-handedness was seen as something more inherently correct than left handedness, it came to mean correct.

    slightly similar are ambidextrous ("two right hands") and sinister, which came from latin and originally meant (the direction) left.
  4. elianecanspeak

    elianecanspeak Senior Member

    by Lake Michigan
    English - EEUU
    I think that in addition to "correctness" there is a basis in what is considered "natural" (and therefore "correct").

    As Abu Rashid and ocanada point out, many cultures considered the use of the right hand to be "natural" and that of the left hand "unnatural". The word "dexterous" from the Latin supports this association: that the right hand is naturally used and therefore more agile, while the left is considered clumsy.

    This accords with the philosophical concept of "unalienable Rights"to which "the laws of nature" entitle people. In other words, that these are inherent. Of course, the concept of what is natural or inherent has varied widely through history and between cultures. "The divine right of kings", for example, is no longer recognized in most of the world.
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2011
  5. er targyn Senior Member

    In Turkic lang's right is oŋ, which means also "good, lucky". In Oguz subbrach right is sağ, it also means "healthy".
  6. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    But Semitic languages have a similar association: they associate "right" to "luck".
  7. ancalimon Senior Member

    In Turkish

    Right: sağ (direction) Sağ: alive, healthy

    Right: doğru (correct) Doğru: towards, straight Doğ (<to(/u)g-): to be born, dawn, rising (of the sun)

    Also RUH (soul) seems to be related to DOĞ. (but I'm not sure if it's Turkic in origin or not). TUĞ: flag but it also means soul because the flag is the soul of a family.

    Right: doğruluk (as in divine right)

    Also Doğu:east

    So I guess being a ruler was related to "being born" and "rising of the sun"
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2011
  8. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    I think we can quite safely say "ruh" is a Semitic word (meaning spirit), and is borrowed via Arabic.
  9. origumi Senior Member

    Also to success, support (in Biblical Hebrew) and to skill, craft.
  10. artion Senior Member

    In europe the association between right side and correct has been strenghened by the Gospel. (sheeps on the right, goats on the left etc). This doesn't apply in Greek. Dexia means only right side but is also related to ability (dex-terity)
  11. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    Possibly, not that I've come across though.

    The word y-m-n is fairly common across the Semitic languages, and I'm not aware of it referring to luck, nor to righteousness. It does double as the word for south though.

    Note: Unless it's possible to reduce y-m-n to ʔ-m-n which some Biblical Hebrew scholars claimed, and then it could carry a simpler meaning of faithful (perhaps righteous?).
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2011
  12. rayloom Senior Member

    Paris, France
    Arabic (Hijazi Arabic)
    The Arabic word for right (side) is yamiin, and it also means "oath" and "power".
    The root y-m-n (through derived words) is associated with other meanings as well, such as blessing, prosperity, righteosness and good luck (Among other meanings).
  13. DenisBiH

    DenisBiH Senior Member

    Not all Slavic, at least not modern. In BCS words related to right as correct, entitlement etc. derive from Proto-Slavic *pravъ (meaning "straight" in BCS), while the words for right as in right-hand side derive from Proto-Slavic *desnъ < PIE *dek's- (the same root as for Latin dexter). I don't know if that was also the case in the past.
  14. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    Indeed. Some philologists see in Greek a connection between the adv. «δεξιά» (ðeksi'a)-->right or the adjective «δεξιός, -ά, -ό» (ðeksi'os, m./ðeksi'a f./ ðeksi'o n.)-->right, with the verb «δέχομαι» ('ðexome)-->take, accept, receive which is logical (we take something offered usually into our right hand). As artion has accurately posted, «δεξιά» is related to ability: in Greek the auspicious, dexterous even clever one, is «επιδέξιος» (epi'ðeksios; lit. towards the right).
  15. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    However, not all Germanic languages have the same word for right (direction) and right (correct). In DK: right (direction) = højre, left= venstre, right (correct) = rigtig. Swedish and Norwegian are similar.

    Other words that have no similarity with right and left, have been used in Danish.
  16. Istriano

    Istriano Senior Member

    in Croatian it's different, as Denis has already said:

    human right: ljudsko pravo
    drive on the right: voziti na desno


    pravo (right, direito, derecho, diritto)
    etymology: translation from german Recht, fr. droit, meaning straight

    desno (right, direita, derecha, destra)
    etymology: oldchurch Slavonic desnъ (rus. desníca: desna ruka, bug. desen) ← ie. *dek's- (lat. dexter: desni, gr. deksiterós, lit. dešinas)

    In Serbian they say idi pravo but I don't understand what it means: idi desno (go right) or idi ravno (keep straight ahead).:confused:

    Here in Istria people use drito (from Italian diritto) for (go/be) straight ahead.
    Last edited: May 1, 2011
  17. DenisBiH

    DenisBiH Senior Member

    Idi pravo
    is the same as idi ravno, we also use idi pravo.

    And drito is known here in B-H as well, but not really for directions, more of a jargon word meaning "straight", "immediately".
  18. elianecanspeak

    elianecanspeak Senior Member

    by Lake Michigan
    English - EEUU
    SSK_Toronto mentioned romance languages.
    In Spanish derecho means "right side", but also "upright", "straight ahead","judicial right", "duties", and "fairness".

    In English the word u"upright" means "marked by strong moral rectitude <an upright citizen>" (Merriam Webster) and "rectitude" means : 1. the quality or state of being straight, 2. moral integrity : righteousness, 3. the quality or state of being correct in judgment or procedure."

    They define "downright" as "1. archaic : straight down, 2. absolutely 1 <downright handsome> <downright mean>"

    "Forthright" a : "directly forward, b : without hesitation : frankly"

    The large majority of people are right handed, and the lines they draw with right hand are straight, and the work they do with right hand is well done. To treat others fairly, you need to perform in a competent, experienced way, like the work you do with your right hand, and not with the inferior competence of work done with the left hand.

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