Yesterday we discovered that sinister means "of the left hand", so today we explore its counterpart on the right. I'll spoil it for you off that bat: it's dexterous. Now, many adjective are just nouns modified a bit, and this is no different. Dexterous showed up in 1600, from the noun dexterity, which was borrowed in the 1520s from dexter, meaning "right". Today, of course, dexterity means "skill with the hands", and since most people were more skilled with their right than their left hands, the meaning changed. Dexter (from whence the boy's name, as well, though it went through a surname first) through Proto-Italic deksteros, goes all the way back to the Proto-Indo-European root deks. which also meant "right". Since 1600, the word dexterity is more common than sinister, which is more common than dexterous. Something sinister is up; something's not right.
Adam Aleksic is a 221-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