Words related to Benjamin
c. 1200, "opposite of right," probably from Kentish and northern English forms of Old English *lyft "weak; foolish" (in lyft-adl "lameness, paralysis"). Compare East Frisian luf, Dutch dialectal loof "weak, worthless").
Sense of "opposite of right" is from the left being usually the weaker hand), a derived sense also found in cognate Middle Dutch and Low German luchter, luft. Compare Lithuanian kairys "left" and Lettish kreilis "left hand" both from a root that yields words for "twisted, crooked."
The usual Old English winstre/winestra "left" (adj.); "left hand," literally "friendlier," a euphemism used superstitiously to avoid invoking the unlucky forces connected with the left side (compare sinister). The Kentish word itself might have been originally a taboo replacement, if instead it represents PIE *laiwo- "considered conspicuous" (represented in Greek laios, Latin laevus, and Russian levyi). Greek also uses a euphemism for "left," aristeros "the better one" (compare also Avestan vairyastara- "to the left," from vairya- "desirable").
Meaning "being on the left-hand side" is from c. 1300. As an adverb from early 14c. For political senses, see left (n.). Used at least since c. 1600 in various senses of "irregular, illicit;" earlier proverbial sense was "opposite of what is expressed" (mid-15c.), for example over the left (shoulder) "not at all," added to a statement to negate or neglect what was just said (1705). To have two left feet "be clumsy" is attested by 1902.
Phrase out in left field "out of touch with pertinent realities" is attested from 1944, from the baseball fielding position that tends to be far removed from the play (left field in baseball attested by 1867; the fielding positions are from the point of view of the batter). The Parisian Left Bank (of the River Seine) has been associated with intellectual and artistic culture at least since 1893; Left Coast "Pacific Coast of the U.S." is by 1980s.
German link, Dutch linker "left" are said to be not directly related to these, being instead from Old High German slinc and Middle Dutch slink "left," related to Swedish linka "limp," slinka "dangle," and Old English slincan "crawl" (Modern English slink).
1520s, "manual skill, skill in using the hands; physical adroitness in general," from French dexterité (16c.), from Latin dexteritatem (nominative dexteritas) "readiness, skillfulness, prosperity," from dexter "skillful," also "right (hand)," from PIE root *deks- "right, on the right hand," also "south." Compare dexter. In 16c.-18c. also "mental adroitness or skill," often in a bad sense, "cleverness in taking advantage or avoiding responsibility."
"right-hand-wise, turned toward the right; clockwise," 1771, from Gaelic deiseil, deiseal (adjective and adverb) "toward the south," taken in sense of "toward the right," from deas "right, right-hand; south," cognate with Irish deas, Old Irish dess, des, Welsh dehau, and ultimately with Latin dexter, from PIE root *deks- "right; south." The second element of the Gaelic word is not explained (one old guess, in the Century Dictionary, is a proposed *iul "direction, guidance").
The English surname, however, is literally "a dyer," attested from c. 1300, from a variant of deie "dye" (see dye (n.)) + feminine agent suffix -ster. Its immediate source is Old English degstre, from deagian "to dye." The parallel form in Middle English was deister "dyer" attested from c. 1300, from 13c. as a surname (Deyster, Dygestre).
Old English norð- (in compounds) "northern, lying to the north" (adj.); norð (adv.) "northwards, to the north, in the north;" from Proto-Germanic *nurtha- (source also of Old Norse norðr, Old Saxon north, Old Frisian north, Middle Dutch nort, Dutch noord, German nord), which is probably an IE word, but of uncertain origin.
It might be ultimately from PIE *ner- (1) "left," also "below" (source also of Sanskrit narakah "hell," Greek neretos "deeper, lower down," enerthen "from beneath," Oscan-Umbrian nertrak "left"), as north is to the left when one faces the rising sun. The same notion apparently underlies Old Irish tuath "left; northern;" Arabic shamal "left hand; north." Compare Benjamin. Or perhaps the notion is that the sun is at its "lowest" point when in the north.
The usual word for "north" in the Romance languages ultimately is from English: Old French north (Modern French nord), borrowed from Old English norð; and Italian nord, Spanish norte, borrowed from French.
As a noun, "the northern cardinal point or direction," late 12c., from the adjective. From c. 1200 as "the north part of Britain, the region beyond the Humber." Generally, then "a region lying north of some other region." In U.S. history, "the states and territories north of Maryland and the Ohio River" (by 1796).
The geographical North Pole is attested from mid-15c. (earlier the Arctic pole, late 14c.; north pole in astronomy for "the fixed zenith of the celestial sphere" is from late 14c.). North American (n.) was used in 1766 by Franklin; as an adjective from 1770.
Ask where's the North? At York 'tis on the Tweed;
In Scotland at the Orcades; and there
At Greenland, Zembla, or the Lord knows where.
[Pope, "Essay on Man"]