αριστερός and άριστος

NedL

New Member
English - England
How does αριστερός relate to άριστος etymologically? And does αριστερός have the negative connotations that other words for 'left' have (e.g. gauche, sinister, maladroit)?
 
  • ioanell

    Member
    Greek
    How does αριστερός relate to άριστος etymologically?
    ἀριστερός<ἄριστος+τερος (-τερος=suffix denoting comparison or differentiation).

    does αριστερός have the negative connotations that other words for 'left' have (e.g. gauche, sinister, maladroit)?
    In Ancient Greece, due to the rituals of auguries, the word was created as euphemism against such negative connotations in the belief that this way the evil could be averted. In Modern Greek there are no connotations of "clumsy, awkward, blundering, threatening etc." in the word. In older times, "αριστερός" was often used for "left-handed" and, given the ignorance and beliefs of the time, it must have carried some negative connotation, that of a clumsy person. But that was all (and in the past)!
     

    bearded

    Senior Member
    Italian
    [QUOTE="ioanell, post: 18160129, member: 861083"ἀριστερός<ἄριστος+τερος (-τερος=suffix denoting comparison or differentiation).[/QUOTE]
    Hello
    Since - to my knowledge - ἄριστος means best/noble, would ἀριστερός originally mean ''other than noble'' (noble being the right hand)?
    Considering your above explanation - what did Ancient Greeks call the left hand (or did, in general, say 'left') before the 'euphemism' was created?
     
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    apmoy70

    Senior Member
    Greek
    ...I don't know what did Greeks call the left hand before "αριστερό". But it's already attested in Homer-8th c. BC)
    (1) «Σκαιός, σκαιά, σκαιόν» with cognates the Sanskrit छाया (chāyā), shade, reflection, Latin scævus. According to Beekes:
    The semantic development may have been 'shaded' > 'western', and when referring to hands, 'shaded hand' > 'improper hand = left hand'
    (2) «Λαιός, λαιά, λαιόν» (poetic), with cognate the Latin lævus.
     

    ioanell

    Member
    Greek
    apmoy70 was evidently quicker than me!

    Anyway, for “ἀριστερός“ Ancient Greeks used the words “λαιός” and “σκαιός“ both attested in Homer and, of course, in later poets and writers. During the ritual of bird-augury, the augur was standing facing the North and watching the flying of birds. If the birds were flying from the right, that is from the East, his prediction was a favourable one, if they were flying from the left, that is from the West, his prediction was unfavourable. So, as the words “λαιός” and “σκαιός“ were already carrying a negative connotation because of this concept, terms like ἀριστερός (<ἂριστος) and εὐώνυμος (<εὖ+ὂνυμα) were used to express in a milder, less painful way the adverse, bad predictions coming from the left side and possibly avert the evil. That was their belief.
     

    Perseas

    Senior Member
    Greek
    Since - to my knowledge - ἄριστος means best/noble, would ἀριστερός originally mean ''other than noble'' (noble being the right hand)?
    I don't believe that originally it did carry negative connotations, because initially it was used as an euphemism. However, the fact that it was used synonymously with words that already carried negative connotations had soon an effect on its meaning. For example: τοῖσιν ἀριστερὸς ἤλυθεν ὄρνις (Od., book 20, line 242) means "a bird came to them on the left", which was not a good sign.

    Therefore, "ἀριστερός" is already attested in Homer like the older "σκαιός" and "λαιός". "Εὐώνυμος" is also an ancient word, a little newer compared to the others, and it is attested with the meaning of "left" in Herodotus, Sophocles and in later authors. We could say that "εὐώνυμος" was an euphemism for the euphemism (i.e. ἀριστερός)!

    I guess by "noble" you don't mean "someone with herediatry title etc". "Aριστερός" as a political term is used in modern era, as "left", "link", "sinistra" etc.
     
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    NedL

    New Member
    English - England
    Well thank you, Ioanell, Bearded, apmoy70 and Perseas for these really interesting replies. I've learnt a lot and am as always amazed by how meaning and usage develop in language.
     
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