Saturday, October 19, 2002

Etymology Today from M-W: widdershins \WIH-der-shinz\ (adv.)
: in a left-handed, wrong, or contrary direction
: counterclockwise

"He turned to his right, knowing that it is unlucky to walk about a church widdershins." (Dorothy Sayers, _The Nine Tailors_)

Legend holds that demons always approached the devil widdershins. Not surprisingly, such a path was considered evil and unlucky. By the mid-1500s, English speakers had adopted "widdershins" (from the Middle High German "wider," meaning "back, against," and "sinnen," meaning "to travel") for anything following a path opposite to the direction the sun travels across the sky (that is, counterclockwise). But in its earliest known uses "widdershins" was far less malignant; it was used simply to describe a case of bad hair in which unruly locks stood on end or fell the wrong way.
Previous E.T.

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