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Most past and present cultures (perhaps all) contrast the right and left hand to the advantage of the former, presumably because in most people it is stronger and more skilled; in English, there is also a strong verbal connection with ‘right’ in the senses ‘correct, good’. The right hand symbolizes power, authority, benevolence, honour, and loyalty; it is used in gestures of greeting or blessing, in shaking hands, taking oaths, etc. In the ancient Roman system of augury, omens to the right of the enquirer were favourable. Whatever the origins of these semi-conscious meanings, Christianity strengthened them by some vivid imagery: the risen Christ sits ‘at the right hand of the Father’, and at the Last Judgement the ‘sheep’ will be on the right, the ‘goats’ on the left (Matthew 25:33).

In folk beliefs, good luck is regularly associated with the right side: it is lucky to see the new moon to one's right, to put the right stocking or shoe on first, to cross a threshold with the right foot, and so on, while in each case the left is unlucky.

See also LEFT.

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