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From Middle English sinistre (unlucky), from Old French sinistra (left), from Latin sinestra (left hand).



sinister (comparative more sinister, superlative most sinister)

  1. Inauspicious, ominous, unlucky, illegitimate (as in bar sinister).
    • Ben Jonson
      All the several ills that visit earth, / Brought forth by night, with a sinister birth.
    • 1922, Michael Arlen, “1/5/1”, in “Piracy”: A Romantic Chronicle of These Days[1]:
      And in the meanwhile, Society shivered a little feverishly, filled now with the scions of those who had come over with the Jewish and American Conquests. Escutcheons were becoming valueless, how sinister soever the blots and clots upon them.
  2. Evil or seemingly evil; indicating lurking danger or harm.
    sinister influences
    the sinister atmosphere of the crypt
  3. Of the left side.
    • Shakespeare
      Here on his sinister cheek.
    • Shakespeare
      My mother's blood / Runs on the dexter cheek, and this sinister / Bounds in my father's.
    • 1911, Saki, ‘The Unrest-Cure’, The Chronicles of Clovis:
      Before the train had stopped he had decorated his sinister shirt-cuff with the inscription, ‘J. P. Huddle, The Warren, Tilfield, near Slowborough.’
  4. (heraldry) On the left side of a shield from the wearer's standpoint, and the right side to the viewer.
  5. (obsolete) Wrong, as springing from indirection or obliquity; perverse; dishonest.
    • Francis Bacon
      Nimble and sinister tricks and shifts.
    • South
      He scorns to undermine another's interest by any sinister or inferior arts.
    • Sir Walter Scott
      He read in their looks [] sinister intentions directed particularly toward himself.


Derived termsEdit






Uncertain origin, but possibly as a euphemism from the same Proto-Indo-European root as Sanskrit सनीयान् (sanīyān, more useful, more advantageous).[1]



sinister (feminine sinistra, neuter sinistrum); first/second declension

  1. left
  2. perverse, bad; or adverse, hostile
    • 1st BC, Virgilius
      mores sinistri
      arboribus Notus sinister
  3. (religion) auspicious (for Romans) or inauspicious (for Greeks)
    • 1st BC, Virgilius
      sinistra cornix, good omen
    • 2nd century, Apuleius
      sinistro pede profectus, started with bad omen


First/second declension, nominative masculine singular in -er.

Number Singular Plural
Case / Gender Masculine Feminine Neuter Masculine Feminine Neuter
nominative sinister sinistra sinistrum sinistrī sinistrae sinistra
genitive sinistrī sinistrae sinistrī sinistrōrum sinistrārum sinistrōrum
dative sinistrō sinistrō sinistrīs
accusative sinistrum sinistram sinistrum sinistrōs sinistrās sinistra
ablative sinistrō sinistrā sinistrō sinistrīs
vocative sinister sinistra sinistrum sinistrī sinistrae sinistra





  • sinister in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • sinister in Charlton T. Lewis (1891) An Elementary Latin Dictionary, New York: Harper & Brothers
  • Castiglioni-Mariotti, IL
  1. ^ Per Klein, Buck.