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What is a Southpaw?

By J. Beam
Updated May 23, 2024
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A southpaw is a term in the vernacular that defines a left-handed person. Though the term southpaw could be used to refer to any left-handed individual, it is most often used in a sports context. In fact, the term southpaw appears to have stemmed from the sport of baseball even though it is most often heard in reference to boxing.

Baseball diamonds were designed so that batters face eastward in order to reduce glare from afternoon and early evening sun. Right-handed pitchers thus face the north before turning to throw at home plate while left-handed pitchers face the south. Hence the term southpaw. More than in baseball, the term southpaw is heard in boxing in reference to both a left-handed boxer and the stance he uses to throw a punch.

Outside of sports, the term southpaw is rarely heard or used to refer to a left-handed person. The term generally used in normal conversation is “lefty.” The English word left means the opposite of the word right, which also means correct, while the Latin word for left is sinister and thus translates into English as bad.

Largely because of the etymology of the word, being left-handed, or a southpaw, was once considered to be a negative trait. Some cultures still believe that left-handedness should be forcibly overcome by refusing to allow children to use their left hand. However, most modern day beliefs rarely carry a connotation one way or the other. Still, being left-handed in a predominately right-handed society can be difficult at times because certain implements and tools are designed for right-handed people, placing left-handed people at a disadvantage for using them.

In sports, the predominant hand is rarely a success factor and in some cases, such as boxing, being a southpaw can be an advantage. It is estimated that roughly 20% of the population is left-handed, but this figure could be skewed when things such as ambidexterity and the forceful switching of predominant hands are taken into account.

Sports n' Hobbies is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By ramcatluvr — On May 29, 2011

Interesting that the Latin of the word "left" means sinister. An interesting fact I've observed from working with building contractors for over five years is that a great majority of them were left-handed. There must be a link somewhere about this unusual quality within the building industry.

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