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We know that "ambidextrous" describes (roughly) the ability to use both hands. Are there words in English the capture the idea of something that is "suitable for use by either hand"? Similarly, is there a word that captures the idea of something that is "suitable for use on either foot"?

Examples:

  • For shoes, we distinguish between left and right feet. For skis, as far as I can remember from the last time I went skiing, each individual ski can fit on either boot.
  • Scissors come in left-handed and right-handed varieties, whereas tongs generally can be operated by either hand. (As a side remark: I've seen scissors marketed as "ambidextrous". Is this use of the word correct?)
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3 Answers 3

If scissors can be left-handed or right-handed (despite the fact that they don't have hands), I don't see why they can't be ambidextrous. Furthermore, this meaning of ambidextrous is in the ODO.

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+1 Handedness is often applied to things other than hands, for example, coordinate systems. –  Jon Purdy Feb 24 '13 at 14:40
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Building on @starwed's suggestion and @PeterShor's comment, why not ambichiral?

Wikipedia says Chiral comes from the Greek χειρ, hand, so that chiral is "hand-assymetry-ish". Thus ambichiral like ambidextrous.

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While you could describe such things as achiral, the word typically only sees scientific usage.

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Ambidextrous scissors are definitely not achiral. –  Peter Shor Feb 24 '13 at 13:32
    
That's true, though they apparently are also not truly ambidextrous! (I'm going by wikipedia's summary here.) I think any tool that is functionally chiral will have some small operational differences when moved from one hand to the other. –  starwed Feb 24 '13 at 17:57
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Though it's kind of interesting that such scissors work nearly the same way in either hand, close enough that you might not notice the difference. Since as you mention they're quite strongly chiral, I wonder if there's some odd sense in which they're nevertheless 'approximately' achiral. –  starwed Feb 24 '13 at 18:11
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