Ambidextrous (a word request) is, as many know, the ability to use both hands with equal adeptness. But the implications of the word are not upheld by its etymology. The ambi- prefix of the word can be followed back to the Proto-Indo-European word ambhi, which meant "around". This went into Latin as ambi "around", which later changed over time to be defined as "both". The dextrous part of the word is a combination of the suffix -ous and the word dexter, which meant "right-handed". This came from PIE and the root deks, or "of the right hand". That's right; ambidextrous originally meant "having two right hands". This was figurative, of course. It's impossible to have two right hands; one would always be on the left. I don't know why I'm clarifying this. The logic behind the word is that most people were more skilled using their right hand, so that became generally known as the "able" hand. Ergo ambidextrous really meant "two able hands". A curious and lesser-known antonym of ambidextrous is ambisinistrous, which meant "two left hands" in the same sense that ambidextrous meant "two right hands". And, yes, this is related to the word sinister, as are all things concerning the left (my apologies to Democrats).
Adam Aleksic is a 220-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard University in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd