61 Interesting Facts about Left-Handedness

By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published September 23, 2016Updated October 14, 2016
  • Southpaws make up about 3% of the population in the most peaceful primitive societies, but 27% in the most warlike ones. Researchers believe that in violent societies, left-handers may benefit from their unexpected left hook.[5]
  • Women are more likely to be right-handed than men by about 4 percentage points.[11]
  • Between 10-12% of people on earth are “lefties.”[11]
  • Some scholars note that left-handers may be one of the last unorganized minorities in society because they have no collective power and no real sense of common identity. Additionally, left-handers are often discriminated against by social, educational, and religious institutions. Social customs and even language set the left-hander apart as “different” and even “bad.”[2]
  • At various times in history, left-handedness has been seen as many things: a nasty habit, a mark of the devil, a sign of neurosis, rebellion, criminality, and homosexuality. It has also been seen as a trait indicating creativity and musical abilities.[2]
  • Many sources claim that left-handers may die as many as nine years earlier than right-handers.[2]
  • The word left in English comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lyft, which means weak or broken.b[2]
  • The causes may include intrauterine crowding, mirror-imaging, and pre- and/or perinatal damage
  • Left-handedness is twice as common in twins than in the general population.[6]
  • Phrases in English suggest a negative view of left-handedness. For example, a “left-handed complement” is actually an insult. A “left-handed marriage” is not a marriage but an adulterous sexual liaison, as in a “left-handed honeymoon with someone else’s husband.” A “left-handed wife” is actually a mistress.[2]
  • Famous left-handed intellectuals include Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Benjamin Franklin.[2]
  • Mothers who are over 40 at the time of a child’s birth are 128% more likely to have a left-handed baby than a woman in her 20s.[2]
  • In reference to a person’s sex life, a “left-hander” is a homosexual.[3]
  • The German for “left-handed’ is linkisch, which means awkward, clumsy, and maladroit. In Italian, the word is mancino, which is derived from “crooked” or “maimed” (mancus) and is also used to mean deceitful or dishonest. In Russian, to be called a left-hander (levja) is a term of insult.[3]
  • In Latin, the word for left is sinister, related to the noun sinistrum. Ambisinister means “clumsy on both sides.”[2]
  • Among the Eskimos, every left-handed person is viewed as a potential sorcerer. In Morocco, left-handers are considered to be a s’ga, a word that means either a devil or a cursed person.[3]
  • In the Talmud, the Chief of Satans or Prince of Demons is named Samael, which is associated with the Hebrew word for left side, se’mol. The angel Michael sits on God’s right-hand side, while Samael is on his left-hand side. This attribution of evil to the left and good to the right appears in various forms throughout the world.[2]
  • Stressed mothers are more likely to have a left-handed child
  • Research has shown a link between trauma during gestation or during birth with an increased chance of being left-handed.[2]
  • The word “dexterity” shows a right-handed bias. The term dexter means “right” and refers to being “right-handed” on both sides.[3]
  • The Incas thought left-handers were capable of healing and that they possessed magical abilities. The North American Zuni tribe believed left-handedness signified good luck.c[3]
  • Herbert Hoover is believed to be the first left-handed president, though James Garfield could write Greek with the left hand and Latin with the right.[3]
  • Many artistic representations of the devil show him to be left-handed.[2]
  • In witchcraft texts in medieval Europe, it was the left hand that was used to harm or curse another person. To affect a curse, witches were instructed to silently touch the recipient with the left hand, which would convey the curse. Additionally, the devil supposedly gives the gathering a benediction with the left hand, as opposed to the right-handed blessing of the Christian church. He would also baptize or anoint with his left hand.[2]
  • During the Spanish Inquisition, lefties were more likely to be tortured.[2]
  • Using a spiral notebook is a modern form of torture for a leftie
  • The Boston Strangler, Jack the Ripper, and Osama Bin Laden were lefties.[2]
  • Both the Jewish and Christian traditions are strongly right-handed in their nature and practices. For Catholics, Anglicans, Episcopalians, and other denominations, the priest must present the communion wafer with the right hand, and the communicant accepts it with the right hand. All benedictions must be made with the right hand, and a priest symbolizes the “strong right hand of God.”[2]
  • Medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides (A.D. 1135-1204) listed 100 blemishes a Jewish priest could not have, and being left-handed was one of them.[2]
  • In Scotland there is a saying that describes an unlucky person: “He must have been baptized by a left-handed priest.”[2]
  • The right hand is mentioned positively 100 times in the Bible, while the left hand is mentioned only 25 times, all negatively.[2]
  • In many Islamic countries, people are forbidden to eat with their left hand, which is considered “unclean” because it is used for cleaning the body after defecation.[3]
  • Twenty percent of all Mensa members are left-handed
  • Tests conducted by St. Lawrence University in New York found that there were more left-handed people with IQs over 140 than right-handed people.b[2]
  • Although approximately 90% of all humans are right-handed, cats, rats, and mice that show handedness seem to be equally split between right- and left-pawedness.[2]
  • Human asymmetrical behavior patterns involve the foot, eye, and ear as well as the hand. In each case, humans show the same rightward bias they show toward handedness.[2]
  • Left-handedness has also been called mancinism, sinistromanuality, and cackhandedness. Other colloquialisms for left-handedness include skivvy-handed, scrummy-handed, kaggy-fisted, cawk-fisted, gibble-fisted, southpaw, cunny-and ballock-handed.[2]
  • According to tradition, an itchy left hand indicates you will lose money. An itchy right hand indicates you will receive money.[3]
  • Increased levels of testosterone in the womb has been shown to increase the chances of becoming left-handed. This may explain the correlation that seems to exist between left-handedness and some immune disorders, as testosterone has been linked to immune disorders.[2]
  • Studies have suggested that left-handers are more talented in spatial awareness, math, and architecture. Right-handers tend to be more talented verbally.[2]
  • The gene LRRTM1 is a strong contributing factor for left-handedness. Scientists discovered the gene during a study of dyslexic children and believe it is inherited from the father.[8]
  • Left-handedness runs in families. Lefties in the British royal family include the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, and Prince William.[2]
  • Studies show that those who have autism are more likely to be left-handed.[1]
  • August 13th is “Left-Hander’s Day.” Launched in 1996, this yearly event celebrates left-handedness and raises awareness of the difficulties and frustrations left-handers experience every day in a world designed for right-handers.[7]
  • God made everyone right-handed; the truly gifted overcome it.

    - Anonymous

  • Many people who are left-handed draw figures that face to the right.[11]
  • Left-handers are more likely to be dyslexic and to stutter.[4]
  • One in four Apollo astronauts were left-handers.[2]
  • Connections between the right and left sides of the brain are faster in left-handed people, which suggests that left-handers are more efficient multitaskers.[4]
  • The left side, which is historically seen as weaker and “bad,” is also traditionally considered to be the female side. However, current scientific data suggests that men are more likely to be left-handed than women.[2]
  • Ultrasounds show that in the womb, 90% of babies appear to favor the right thumb, which corresponds to population breakdowns of right-handers and left-handers.[2]
  • Scientists believe the cause may lie in exposure to high levels of sex hormones in the womb
  • Research indicates that left-handers are more likely to become alcoholics, schizophrenic, delinquent, and dyslexic. They are also more likely to have Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or mental disabilities. Scholars note that despite these maladies, left-handers have survived because they are traditionally successful in combat.[2]
  • Researchers postulate that the proportion of left-handers has remained constant for over 30,000 years.[2]
  • About 30 million people in the United States are left-handed.[11]
  • Studies suggest premature babies are more likely to be left-handed. Additionally, infants with low Apgar scores at birth are more likely to be left-handed than children who have higher Apgar scores.[2]
  • Juniata College in Huntington, Pennsylvania awards up to $1,500 in academic scholarships to students who have top academic records and who are left-handed.[10]
  • Researchers note that on average, left-handers reach sexual maturity later than right-handers.[2]
  • When placed on their tummies, right-handed babies tend to turn their heads to the right. Left-handed babies usually turn their heads to the left or they don’t show any preference.[2]
  • Less than 1% of the world’s population can be considered truly ambidextrous.[2]
  • Research suggests that left-handers are slightly more prone to allergies and asthma than right-handers are.[2]
  • Studies have shown that if a left-hander injures his dominant hand, he has an easier time learning to use the other hand than his right-handed counterparts.[3]
  • Actually, all veins lead to the heart
  • Wedding rings are traditionally worn on the left hand because people believed that a vena amoris, or a “lover’s vein,” connected the 4th finger on this hand to the heart.[3]
  • Left-handers are more likely to display symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after watching a clip from a scary movie than right-handers.[4]
  • The brains of left-handers process emotions differently than those of right-handers and are more susceptible to negative emotions, such as anger.[2]
  • Some scientists have suggested that left-handers were originally in the womb with a twin that did not survive, or a “Vanishing Twin.”[2]
  • The longest words that can be typed using only the left hand with conventional hand placement are sweaterdresses and tesseradecades.[9]

1 Asbery, Carolyn. “Left Hand, Left Brain: The Plot Thickens.” The DANA Foundation. October 1, 2005. Accessed: June 14, 2011.

2 Coren, Stanley. The Left-Hander Syndrome: The Causes and Consequences of Left-Handedness. Detroit, MI: Free Press, 1992.

3 Healy, Jane M. Loving Lefties: How to Raise Your Left-Handed Child in a Right-Handed World. New York, NY: Pocket Books, 2001.

4Left-handers Have Different View.” BBC. February 7, 2005. Accessed: June 29, 2011.

5 MacMillan, Amanda. "20 Ways Being Left-Handed Impacts Your Health." CNN. November 4, 2015. Accessed: September 24, 2016.

6 MacMillan, Amanda. "Left-Handed: The Secret Perks and Pitfalls of Being a Southpaw." Health. 2016. Accessed: September 23, 2016.

7 Raum, Elizabeth A. Everyday a Holiday: Celebrating Children's Literature. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2001.

8 Ravilious, Kate. “Gene for Left-Handed Trait Discovered.” National Geographic. August 1, 2007. Accessed: June 29, 2011.

9Spelled with Typewriter Letters from Left Hand.” Taxonomy of Wordplay. Accessed: June 29, 2011.

10Weird Unknown Left-Handed Scholarship Grants.” Scholarship Grants. 2011. Accessed: June 29, 2011.

11 Wolmon, David. A Left-Hand Turn around the World: Chasing the Mystery and Meaning of All Things Southpaw. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books Group, 2005.