People express a quantity of something they still have (but is finding away) by using the word "left".

Time left: 2 hours

Where does this usage originates from. If one depicts a timeline, it would be more useful to say "time right":

      |-- time right? --|
     now              event

In short: how did direction get additional semantics in English?

  • 3
    If you check in a dictionary, you will find that there are two different words, 'left' and 'left'. Homonyms. They have different etymologies. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 28 '15 at 17:32

It might be me, but to me this derives not from left/right but simply from the verb to leave...

In french you'd say things like: "Il me reste X" or "Il reste X". (I'm left with X. X is left.)


You are mixing up

  • left (= not right side) and
  • left (= past participle of to leave)

They sound the same, but have totally different origins, they are a classic example of a homonym.

Homonyms are defined as

Words that share the same spelling and pronunciation but have different meanings. 1

Homonyms (or homophones = words that sound the same) are often used in jokes, where the "misunderstanding" is the base of the joke:

Why did the cat come down from the tree? Because it saw the tree bark.


Are you confusing the past tense/participle of leave with left?


[Middle English, from Old English lyft-, weak, useless (in lyftādl, paralysis). N., sense 2, from the fact that liberals often sit on the left side of the legislative chamber in various assemblies .]


Past tense and past participle of leave1.

American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Leave 1

[Middle English leaven, from Old English lǣfan; see leip- in Indo-European roots.]

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