"opposite of left," 1125, riht, from O.E. 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 O.E. word for this was swiþra, lit. "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 Du. recht, Ger. recht "right (not left)," from O.H.G. reht, which meant only "straight, just." The usual PIE root (*deks(i)-) is represented by Skt. daksina-, Gk. dexios, L. dexter (cf. O.Fr. destre, Sp. diestro, etc.), Ir. dess, Welsh deheu, Goth. taihswa, Lith. desinas, O.C.S. desnu, Rus. desnoj. Other derivations on a similar pattern to Eng. right are Fr. droit, from L. directus "straight;" Lith. labas, lit. "good;" and Slavic words (Boh. pravy, Pol. prawy, Rus. pravyj) from O.C.S. pravu, lit. "straight." The political sense of "conservative" is first recorded 1794 (adj.), 1825 (n.), a translation of Fr. Droit "the Right, Conservative Party" in the Fr. National Assembly (1789; see left
). Right wing in political sense is first recorded 1905. Right hand, fig. for "indispensable person" is recorded from 1528; right-hand man first attested 1665.