gauche = {adjective} unsophisticated and socially awkward:

1. Why does gauche connote negativity? I read but won't replicate Etymonline here because it doesn't explain its negativity in English, at least.

In French, one of its more formal meanings is synonymous with « maladroit », also negative, but its most common meaning is just left.

2. But why's left negative but 'right' positive? Right = « droit » is positive in both languages. In English, right => correct. In French, « droit » is synonymous with « honnête ».

I already tolerate and so ask NOT about definitions, below which I instead purpose to burrow. I heed the Etymological Fallacy. What are right ways of interpreting or rationalizing this meaning, in order to intuit or naturalise as far as possible and to help me remember?

  • 5
    This is basically answered already in linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/2555/…
    – user6726
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 21:20
  • 1
    In many languages the words for "left hand" have negative connotations, e.g. Latin sinister.
    – fdb
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 8:47
  • Because the majority are right-handed? As a leftie, that has always seemed an adequate explanation to me:
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 13:42

1 Answer 1


The Left connotes the feminine, the Right masculine. In our ancient pagan religions, especially ones the worshipped the Earth Goddess or Gaia, women were led, or were part of, and joined the men in the priest(ess)hood. The ancient greeks also believed that semen from the left testes would make a female, the right, a male. Mutatis mutandis an embryo on the left side of the womb and the right side as well.

Once Emperor Constantine's mixing of his sun worship with christianity came along, even before the Council of Nicea, women had been excluded from officiating as religious celebrants in religion, and in christianity, which became the major religion of Europe. The misery of christianity ensued, women were blamed for Original Sin, the source of evil, etc, etc.

Hence anything that is left, or feminine, is seen as weak. To be "gauche" in EN is to be tactless and lacking in manner, whereas to be right, is to so much more than only that.

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    Can you add some scholarly references for your claims about the ancient pagan religions and the history of Christianity? Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 9:04