Is there an affix that means left (right)? E.g. Imagine it was the prefix lef-. We'd be able to generate the following words.

  • lefcars (cars in which the steering wheel is on the left-hand side)
  • leffoils (foils with the grip set-up for a left-hander)
  • lefpoliticians (politicians associated with the political left)


  • The second one is definitely "left-handed". A left-handed pair of scissors.
    – Mr Lister
    Jul 5 '14 at 14:52

I'd usually go for levo and dextro in contexts involving "coinages", etc. Both have Latin roots (as does sinistr(o)=left) - offhand I don't know any corresponding Greek equivalents.

Note that levo may also appear as laevo, lævo, lev. But these pairings are always concerned with literal "handedness", so they wouldn't be suitable where the left/right distinction is already figurative, such as the political spectrum.

  • My issue with this is that dextro- means clockwise, not right. Clockwise involves movement to the right when the hand is at 12 o'clock, and movement to the left when the hand is at 6 o'clock. So "clockwise" really has nothing to do with "right." Jul 5 '14 at 15:11
  • 5
    @user18921 Balderdash. When you circle something clockwise or deasil, your right side is towards the thing in question; and the mnemonic for right-hand screw-threads is "righty tighty, lefty loosey." Plus of course dexter is Latin for right. Dextro- as clockwise derives from dextro- as right. Jul 5 '14 at 15:20
  • @user18921: What Brian said. I think you've probably got more of an issue with the part of your thinking which seems to assume the political left/right specturm is a relevant usage here. If you don't know where that comes from, read this During the French Revolution, the representatives who sat on the right side of the Legislative Assembly were supporters of the aristocracy and the monarchy. Those on the left opposed the old order and supported the interests of the bourgeoisie or rising merchant class. Jul 5 '14 at 15:28
  • Dextro- means ‘right’, not ‘clockwise’. Dextrorphan and levorphanol, for example, are not thus named because they are orphaned in any clockwise or anticlockwise manner, but because they are orphaned on the right and left, respectively. Jul 5 '14 at 15:31
  • 1
    @user18921 He means that if you are walking around something (or someone) clockwise, then that thing/person (who's in the middle of the circle your paces draw) will always be on your right-hand side. Clockwise is always rightwise seen from the centre of the circle. Jul 5 '14 at 15:58

In reference to these matters of chirality, besides the already mentioned dextro- for right, for which the OED gives these examples:

dextrogyre /ˈdɛkstrəʊdʒaɪə(r)/ a. L. gȳrus, Gr. γῠρος circuit, gyrating or circling to the right. dextroˈgyrate a. L. gyrāt-us, pa. pple. of gȳrāre to wheel round, characterized by turning the plane of polarization to the right, as a dextrogyrate crystal. dextroˈgyrous a. = dextrogyre. dextro-roˈtation, rotation to the right. dextro-ˈrotatory a., having or producing rotation to the right; dextrogyrous.

The OED also attests sinistro- for left:

sinistro- /ˈsɪnɪstrəʊ/, used as combining form of sinister, in the sense ‘on, situated in, directed or turning towards the left’, as sinistro-cerebral, -gyrate, -gyric adjs.; sinistro-sacrad adv.

  • 1803 J. Barclay New Anat. Nomencl. 174 ― The position of the heart in the thorax;··we may say its direction from the mesial plane is sinistrad and sacrad, or sinistro-sacrad.
  • 1885 Proc. Soc. Psychol. Research III. 43 ― The replacement of some sinistro-cerebral by some dextro-cerebral centre of sight or speech.
  • 1887 Amer. Jrnl. Psychol. I. 194 ― All movements of the hand··from right to left are sinistrogyric.
  • 1898 Daily Graphic 16 Feb. 9/4 ― The writing··was sinistrogyrate, or centrifugal.

I for one will definitely be incorporating sinistrogyrate into my daily discourse, giving all three of counterclockwise, anticlockwise, and widdershins a well-deserved rest. :)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.