right and left

right and left

adjective, right·er, right·est.

  1. in accordance with what is good, proper, or just: right conduct.
  2. in conformity with fact, reason, truth, or some standard or principle; correct: the right solution; the right answer.
  3. correct in judgment, opinion, or action.
  4. fitting or appropriate; suitable: to say the right thing at the right time.
  5. most convenient, desirable, or favorable: Omaha is the right location for a meatpacking firm.
  6. of, relating to, or located on or near the side of a person or thing that is turned toward the east when the subject is facing north (opposed to left).
  7. in a satisfactory state; in good order: to put things right.
  8. sound, sane, or normal: to be in one’s right mind; She wasn’t right in her head when she made the will.
  9. in good health or spirits: I don’t feel quite right today.
  10. principal, front, or upper: the right side of cloth.
  11. (often initial capital letter) of or relating to political conservatives or their beliefs.
  12. socially approved, desirable, or influential: to go to the right schools and know the right people.
  13. formed by or with reference to a perpendicular: a right angle.
  14. straight: a right line.
  15. Geometry. having an axis perpendicular to the base: a right cone.
  16. Mathematics. pertaining to an element of a set that has a given property when placed on the right of an element or set of elements of the given set: a right identity.
  17. genuine; authentic: the right owner.


  1. a just claim or title, whether legal, prescriptive, or moral: You have a right to say what you please.
  2. Sometimes rights. that which is due to anyone by just claim, legal guarantees, moral principles, etc.: women’s rights; Freedom of speech is a right of all Americans.
  3. adherence or obedience to moral and legal principles and authority.
  4. that which is morally, legally, or ethically proper: to know right from wrong.
  5. a moral, ethical, or legal principle considered as an underlying cause of truth, justice, morality, or ethics.
  6. Sometimes rights. the interest or ownership a person, group, or business has in property: He has a 50-percent right in a silver mine. The author controls the screen rights for the book.
  7. the property itself or its value.
  8. Finance.
    1. the privilege, usually preemptive, that accrues to the owners of the stock of a corporation to subscribe to additional shares of stock or securities convertible into stock at an advantageous price.
    2. Often rights.the privilege of subscribing to a specified amount of a stock or bond issue, or the document certifying this privilege.
  9. that which is in accord with fact, reason, propriety, the correct way of thinking, etc.
  10. the state or quality or an instance of being correct.
  11. the side that is normally opposite to that where the heart is; the direction toward that side: to turn to the right.
  12. a right-hand turn: Make a right at the top of the hill.
  13. the portion toward the right, as of troops in battle formation: Our right crumbled.
  14. (in a pair) the member that is shaped for, used by, or situated on the right side: Is this shoe a left or a right?
  15. the right hand: Jab with your left and punch with your right.
  16. the Right,
    1. the complex of individuals or organized groups opposing change in a liberal direction and usually advocating maintenance of the established social, political, or economic order.
    2. the position held by these people: The Depression led to a movement away from the Right.Compare left1(defs 6a, b).
    3. right wing.
  17. (usually initial capital letter) the part of a legislative assembly, especially in continental Europe, that is situated on the right side of the presiding officer and that is customarily assigned to members of the legislature who hold more conservative or reactionary views than the rest of the members.
  18. the members of such an assembly who sit on the Right.
  19. Boxing. a blow delivered by the right hand: a right to the jaw.
  20. Baseball. right field.


  1. in a straight or direct line; straight; directly: right to the bottom; to come right home.
  2. quite or completely; all the way: My hat was knocked right off.
  3. immediately; promptly: right after dinner.
  4. exactly; precisely: right here.
  5. correctly or accurately: to guess right.
  6. uprightly or righteously: to obey one’s conscience and live right.
  7. properly or fittingly: to behave right.
  8. advantageously, favorably, or well: to turn out right.
  9. toward the right hand; on or to the right: to keep right; to turn right.
  10. Archaic or Dialect. very; extremely: a right fine day.
  11. very (used in certain titles): the right reverend.

verb (used with object), right·ed, right·ing.

  1. to put in or restore to an upright position: to right a fallen lamp.
  2. to put in proper order, condition, or relationship: to right a crookedly hung picture.
  3. to bring into conformity with fact; correct: to right one’s point of view.
  4. to do justice to; avenge: to be righted in court.
  5. to redress, as a wrong.

verb (used without object), right·ed, right·ing.

  1. to resume an upright or the proper position: After the storm the saplings righted.
  1. by rights, in fairness; justly: You should by rights have been asked your opinion on the matter.
  2. in one’s own right, by reason of one’s own ability, ownership, etc.; in or of oneself, as independent of others: He is a rich man in his own right.
  3. in the right, having the support of reason or law; correct: It pays to be stubborn when one is in the right.
  4. right and left, on every side; in all directions: throwing his clothes right and left; members resigning right and left.
  5. right away/off, without hesitation; immediately: She made a good impression right off.
  6. right on, Slang. exactly right; precisely.
  7. too right, Australian Slang.
    1. (used as an expression of emphatic agreement.)
    2. okay: “Can we meet tonight?” “Too right.”
  8. to rights, into proper condition or order: to set a room to rights.


  1. in accordance with accepted standards of moral or legal behaviour, justice, etcright conduct
  2. in accordance with fact, reason, or truth; correct or truethe right answer
  3. appropriate, suitable, fitting, or properthe right man for the job
  4. most favourable or convenient; preferredthe right time to act
  5. in a satisfactory condition; orderlythings are right again now
  6. indicating or designating the correct timethe clock is right
  7. correct in opinion or judgment
  8. sound in mind or body; healthy or sane
  9. (usually prenominal) of, designating, or located near the side of something or someone that faces east when the front is turned towards the northRelated adjective: dextral
  10. (usually prenominal) worn on a right hand, foot, etc
  11. (sometimes capital) of, designating, supporting, belonging to, or relating to the political or intellectual right (see sense 39)
  12. (sometimes capital) conservative or reactionarythe right wing of the party
  13. geometry
    1. formed by or containing a line or plane perpendicular to another line or plane
    2. having the axis perpendicular to the basea right circular cone
    3. straighta right line
  14. relating to or designating the side of cloth worn or facing outwards
  15. informal (intensifier)a right idiot
  16. in one’s right mind sane
  17. she’ll be right Australian and NZ informal that’s all right; not to worry
  18. the right side of
    1. in favour withyou’d better stay on the right side of him
    2. younger thanshe’s still on the right side of fifty


  1. too right Australian and NZ informal an exclamation of agreement
  2. in accordance with correctness or truth; accuratelyto guess right
  3. in the appropriate manner; properlydo it right next time!
  4. in a straight line; directlyright to the top
  5. in the direction of the east from the point of view of a person or thing facing north
  6. absolutely or completely; utterlyhe went right through the floor
  7. all the waythe bus goes right to the city centre
  8. without delay; immediately or promptlyI’ll be right over
  9. exactly or preciselyright here
  10. in a manner consistent with a legal or moral code; justly or righteouslydo right by me
  11. in accordance with propriety; fittingly or suitablyit serves you right
  12. to good or favourable advantage; wellit all came out right in the end
  13. (esp in religious titles) most or veryright reverend
  14. informal, or dialect (intensifier)I’m right glad to see you
  15. right, left, and centre on all sides; from every direction
  16. right off the bat informal as the first in a series; to begin with


  1. any claim, title, etc, that is morally just or legally granted as allowable or due to a personI know my rights
  2. anything that accords with the principles of legal or moral justice
  3. the fact or state of being in accordance with reason, truth, or accepted standards (esp in the phrase in the right)
  4. Irish an obligation or dutyyou had a right to lock the door
  5. the right side, direction, position, area, or partthe right of the army; look to the right
  6. the right (often capital) the supporters or advocates of social, political, or economic conservatism or reaction, based generally on a belief that things are better left unchanged (opposed to radical or left)
  7. boxing
    1. a punch with the right hand
    2. the right hand
  8. finance
    1. (often plural)the privilege of a company’s shareholders to subscribe for new issues of the company’s shares on advantageous terms
    2. the negotiable certificate signifying this privilege
  9. by right or by rights properly; justlyby rights you should be in bed
  10. in one’s own right having a claim or title oneself rather than through marriage or other connectiona peeress in her own right
  11. to rights consistent with justice, correctness, or orderly arrangementhe put the matter to rights

verb (mainly tr)

  1. (also intr) to restore to or attain a normal, esp an upright, positionthe raft righted in a few seconds
  2. to make (something) accord with truth or facts; correct
  3. to restore to an orderly state or condition; put right
  4. to make reparation for; compensate for or redress (esp in the phrase right a wrong)

sentence substitute

    1. indicating that a statement has been understood
    2. asking whether a statement has been understood
    3. indicating a subdividing point within a discourse


  1. an expression of agreement or compliance

“morally correct,” Old English riht “just, good, fair; proper, fitting; straight, not bent, direct, erect,” from Proto-Germanic *rekhtaz (cf. Old Frisian riucht “right,” Old Saxon reht, Middle Dutch and Dutch recht, Old High German reht, German recht, Old Norse rettr, Gothic raihts), from PIE root *reg- “move in a straight line,” also “to rule, to lead straight, to put right” (see regal; cf. Greek orektos “stretched out, upright;” Latin rectus “straight, right;” Old Persian rasta- “straight, right,” aršta- “rectitude;” Old Irish recht “law;” Welsh rhaith, Breton reiz “just, righteous, wise”).

Cf. slang straight (adj.1) “honest, morally upright,” and Latin rectus “right,” literally “straight,” Lithuanian teisus “right, true,” literally “straight.” Greek dikaios “just” (in the moral and legal sense) is from dike “custom.” As an emphatic, meaning “you are right,” it is recorded from 1580s; use as a question meaning “am I not right?” is from 1961. The sense in right whale is “justly entitled to the name.” Right stuff “best human ingredients” is from 1848, popularized by Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book about the first astronauts. Right of way is attested from 1767. Right angle is from late 14c.


“opposite of left,” early 12c., riht, from Old English riht, which did not have this sense but meant “good, proper, fitting, straight” (see right (adj.1)). The notion is of the right hand as the “correct” hand. The usual Old English word for this was swiþra, literally “stronger.” “The history of words for ‘right’ and ‘left’ shows that they were used primarily with reference to the hands” [Buck]. Cf. similar sense evolution in Dutch recht, German recht “right (not left),” from Old High German reht, which meant only “straight, just.”

The usual PIE root (*dek-) is represented by Latin dexter (see dexterity). Other derivations on a similar pattern to English right are French droit, from Latin directus “straight;” Lithuanian labas, literally “good;” and Slavic words (Bohemian pravy, Polish prawy, Russian pravyj) from Old Church Slavonic pravu, literally “straight,” from PIE *pro-, from root *per- (1) “forward, through” (see per).

The political sense of “conservative” is first recorded 1794 (adj.), 1825 (n.), a translation of French Droit “the Right, Conservative Party” in the French National Assembly (1789; see left (adj.)).


Old English rihtan “to straighten, rule, set up, set right, amend; guide, govern; restore, replace,” from riht (adj.); see right (adj.1). Cf. Old Norse retta “to straighten,” Old Saxon rihtian, Old Frisian riuchta, German richten, Gothic garaihtjan. Related: Righted; righting.


Old English riht (West Saxon, Kentish), reht (Anglian), “that which is morally right, duty, obligation,” also “rule of conduct; law of a land;” also “what someone deserves; a just claim, what is due; correctness, truth; a legal entitlement, a privilege,” from the root of right (adj.1). Meaning “the right” (as opposed to the left) is from mid-13c.; political use from 1825. From early 14c. as “a right action, a good deed.” Meaning “a blow with the right fist” is from 1898. The phrase to rights “at once, straightway” is 1660s, from sense “in a proper manner” (Middle English).


Old English rehte, rihte “in a straight or direct manner,” from right (adj.1). Right on! as an exclamation of approval first recorded 1925 in black slang, popularized mid-1960s by Black Panther movement.

In or from all directions, on every side, as in Questions were coming right and left, or She was giving orders right and left. This idiom, first recorded in 1839, uses the directions right and left to signify all sides.

In addition to the idioms beginning with right

  • right and left
  • right as rain
  • right away
  • right in the head
  • right off
  • right off the bat
  • right of way
  • right on
  • right out
  • right side of the tracks
  • right side, on someone’s
  • right tack
  • right up one’s alley

also see:

  • all right
  • all right for you
  • all right with one
  • by rights
  • come (right) out with
  • dead to rights
  • get right
  • give one’s eyeteeth (right arm)
  • go right
  • go (right) through one
  • hang a left (right)
  • have a right to
  • have a screw loose (one’s head screwed on right)
  • heart in the right place
  • hit (right) between the eyes
  • in one’s own right
  • in one’s right mind
  • in the right
  • left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing
  • might makes right
  • not right in the head
  • (right) on the money
  • on the right foot
  • on the right tack
  • play one’s cards right
  • price is right
  • put right
  • sail (right) through
  • serve one right
  • set right
  • set to rights
  • step in the right direction
  • strike the right note
  • that’s right
  • turn out all right
  • two wrongs do not make a right
  • when it comes (right down) to
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