Entries linking to rightless
Old English riht (West Saxon, Kentish), reht (Anglian), "that which is morally right, duty, obligation," also "rule of conduct; law of a land;" also "what someone deserves; a just claim, what is due, equitable treatment;" also "correctness, truth;" also "a legal entitlement (to possession of property, etc.), a privilege," from Proto-Germanic *rehtan (see right (adj.1)). In Middle English often contrasted to might or wrong. From early 14c. as "a right action, a good deed," hence the right "that which is just or true, righteousness."
From what has been said it will be seen that the adjective right has a much wider signification than the substantive Right. Every thing is right which is conformable to the Supreme Rule of human action ; but that only is a Right which, being conformable to the Supreme Rule, is realized in Society, and vested in a particular person. Hence the two words may often be properly opposed. We may say that a poor man has no Right to relief, but it is right he should have it. A rich man has a Right to destroy the harvest of his fields, but to do so would not be right. [William Whewell, "Elements of Morality," 1858]
The meaning "the right hand or right side" (as opposed to the left) is from mid-13c.; see right (adj.2) for sense development. As "the right wing of an army" by 1707. Political use is from 1825. Meaning "a blow with the right fist" is from 1898; the meaning "a right-hand turn" is by 1961. The phrase to rights "at once, straightway" is 1660s, from an earlier meaning "in a proper manner" (Middle English). Adjectival phrase right-to-work is attested from 1958; right-to-die by 1976. To do or something in one's own right (1610s) is from the legal use for "title or claim to something possessed by one or more" (12c.).
updated on August 19, 2021