Dexter and Sinister
Dexter: (letters – 6| syllables 2)
Sinister: (letters – 7| syllables 3)
Dexter(scrabble score -14) Sinister(scrabble score -8)
DEXTER – Heraldic Term
1 |adjective| on or starting from the wearer’s right.
Derivations: Dextrous, dexterity,
1 |adjective| threatening or foreshadowing evil or tragic developments.
2 |adjective| stemming from evil characteristics or forces; wicked or dishonorable.
3. |adjective| on or starting from the wearer’s left
In heraldry references of right-dexter and left-sinister concern spatial relation ship between the escutcheon, or shield, and that of the person holding it. We as viewers of said shield inevitably see its front or face anf therefore are looking upon the mirror images of the design from the designers point of view. ‘Dexter’ then, refers the side of the escutcheon to the right of the person behind it, facing the viewer. ‘Sinister’ refers to the shield-holders left the viewers right.
Also you may hear the terms ‘Bend Dexter‘or ‘Bend Sinister‘. These refer the the strips that diagonally cover Shields from the top of the side referred. Thus a bend dexter looks like this:
While a bend sinister looks:
Heraldry itself being a sort of proto-semiotics trade is quite fascinating and a search of the topic can lead down quite wondrous rabbit holes.
Origin of Dexter and Sinister:
masc. proper name, from Latin dexter “on the right hand” (see dexterity). Compare also ‘benjamin’
Early 15c., “prompted by malice or ill-will, intending to mislead,” from Old French senestre, sinistre “contrary, false; unfavorable; to the left” (14c.), from Latin sinister “left, on the left side” (opposite of dexter), of uncertain origin. Perhaps meaning properly “the slower or weaker hand” [Tucker], but Klein and Buck suggest it’s a euphemism (see left (adj.)) connected with the root of Sanskrit saniyan “more useful, more advantageous.” With contrastive or comparative suffix -ter, as in dexter (see dexterity).
The Latin word was used in augury in the sense of “unlucky, unfavorable” (omens, especially bird flights, seen on the left hand were regarded as portending misfortune), and thus sinister acquired a sense of “harmful, unfavorable, adverse.” This was from Greek influence, reflecting the early Greek practice of facing north when observing omens. In genuine Roman auspices, the augurs faced south and left was favorable. Thus sinister also retained a secondary sense in Latin of “favorable, auspicious, fortunate, lucky.”
Meaning “evil” is from late 15c. Used in heraldry from 1560s to indicate “left, to the left.” Bend (not “bar”) sinister in heraldry indicates illegitimacy and preserves the literal sense of “on or from the left side” (though in heraldry this is from the view of the bearer of the shield, not the observer of it).
c. 1600, “convenient, suitable,” formed in English from Latin dexter (see dexterity) + -ous. Meaning “skillful, clever” is from 1620s.
1520s, from Middle French dexterité (16c.), from Latin dexteritatem (nominative dexteritas) “readiness, skillfulness, prosperity,” from dexter “skillful,” also “right (hand)” (source of Old French destre, Spanish diestro, etc.), from PIE root *deks- “on the right hand,” hence “south” to one facing east (source also of Sanskrit daksinah “on the right hand, southern, skillful;” Avestan dashina- “on the right hand;” Greek dexios “on the right hand,” also “fortunate, clever;” Old Irish dess “on the right hand, southern;” Welsh deheu; Gaulish Dexsiva, name of a goddess of fortune; Gothic taihswa; Lithuanian desinas; Old Church Slavonic desnu, Russian desnoj). The Latin form is with the comparative suffix -ter, thus meaning etymologically “the better direction.” Middle English dester meant “right hand,” and in heraldry dexter means “on the right side.”