Being left-handed means that you use your left hand more often then your right hand. Left-handed people tend to be more dexterous and stronger with their left hands then with their right. If you use both hands equally, you are ambidextrous.

About 10% of the population are left-handed. We do not know what causes some people to be left-handed, although there appears to be some genetic influence. In the past being left-handed was discouraged, and during the Victorian era (and beyond) children who tried to write and perform other basic actions with their left hands were forced to switch over to their right hand. If you have ever tried to write with your non-dominant hand, you can see how this could adversely affect a child's education.

While we don't know what causes left-handedness, we do know that males are more likely to be left-handed than females, and that identical twins are more likely to be left-handed than non-identical twins (or singletons). People with Down's Syndrome, who are epileptic, or who are on the autism spectrum are also more likely to be left-handed.

A few interesting facts about lefthandedness:

Among the presidents of the United States of America there have been an unusually high number of lefthanders -- about one in three. In the 1992 elections, there was not even a righthanded candidate. The incumbent president Bush and his rivals Clinton and Ross Perot were lefthanders.

According to the 1990 U.S. Census, Left is the 62,465th most common surname in the United States. Lefthand is slightly more common,at 55,970th.

Many researchers claim that all polar bears are left-handed. Lemurs, galagos (bush babies) and parrots are usually lefthanded.

Left handedness isn't entirely genetic, as identical twins can have different handedness. They share the same handedness about 75% of the time, indicating that there is a genetic aspect to it.

Lefthanders are often called southpaws.

Most Muppets are left-handed. This is particularly noticible in the Muppet musicians such as Floyd Pepper and Janice. Muppet guitarists tend to play with the neck on their right, rather than the normal left. They finger the frets with their right hands and strum with their left hands.

The reason for this is because most of the Muppeteers are right-handed. Their right hands are in use to move the Muppets' mouths and faces, leaving only their left hands for other movement. Usually, this takes the form of a rod attached to the puppet's left-hand. While both of a real guitarist's hands move, on a Muppet, only one can. It was decided that the strumming hand was more important and that the fretting hand could remain stationary along the relatively short necks. This meant the mobile left hand would be the strumming hand, thus making the Muppets play left-handedly.

For most of history, it was thought that left-handed people were afflicted, evil, or possessed. Preferring the left hand was considered unnatural. In fact, we get our word "sinister" (and the less well-known "sinistral" from the Latin "sinistr-" meaning "on the left". Likewise, the English "left" is derived from the Old Saxon word "lyft", meaning worthless.

Up until about the 19th century, children whose natural inclication was towards left-handedness were forced by strict punishment to use their right. This was practiced even in the United States. Only very recently has being left-handed begun to lose it's negative reputation. Now, being left-handed is often associated with creativity and intelligence.

Handedness is determined physically in the brain. The corpus callosum of left-handed people is noticeably thicker (some statistics say about 11%). Regions of the brain that only appear in a certain hemisphere in right-handed people such as speech, will often appear in the other hemisphere or both in sinistral.

Reliable statistics about handedness are very hard to get even today because of the stigma attached to it, but it is estimated that about 10% of the population is left-handed. It is commonly accepted that men are more often left-handed than women, but by how much is not known.

The statistic that left-handed people do not live as long is a myth. It was based on one study, which has been discarded by the scientific community since then.

Left"-hand`ed, a.


Having the left hand or arm stronger and more dexterous than the right; using the left hand and arm with more dexterity than the right.


Clumsy; awkward; unlucky; insincere; sinister; malicious; as, a left-handed compliment.

The commendations of this people are not always left-handed and detractive. Landor.


Having a direction contrary to that of the hands of a watch when seen in front; -- said of a twist, a rotary motion, etc., looked at from a given direction.

Left-handed marriage, a morganatic marriage. See Morganatic. -- Left-handed screw, a screw constructed to advance away from the observer, when turned, as in a nut, with a left-handed rotation. An ordinary wood screw is right-handed.


© Webster 1913.

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