Right - write

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Right, rite, wright and write form one of the sets of homophones listed by the then Poet Laureate Robert Bridges.
(For more, see Bridges homophones). AWE has a category listing our articles on each of these.

These words sound the same - they are homophones (IPA: /raɪt/). Two start with a silent '-w-', wright and write, and two look the same but without the silent '-w-'. In both the pair with '-w-' and the pair without it, there is one more common word and a rarer partner. For the rarer partner in each pair, see Wright - rite. Right and write are the two common homophones. They are rarely confused in their usual forms, but some compounds of them give rise to confusion. See copyright - copywrite and playwright - playwrite (error) for two examples.

  • The verb to write is known to every learner of English from an early age, and the action that it means is central to every student's life: to record language by means of marks on paper or similar substances that symbolise the sounds of the language.
  • The word right can belong to many word classes, with many different meanings.
    • As an adjective, it can be the opposite to left: a person's right hand side is that on the other side of the body to the heart. Because the right hand is the stronger for most people, it was regarded traditionally as the honourable side: his right hand man was the king's most trusted assistant. A right angle is one of 90 degrees, and the adjective right can be used absolutely to mean 'perpendicular. This gives rise to the meaning of right as 'correct': the word is also the opposite of 'wrong'.
    • One set of meanings of the noun is to do with the side of the body. Armies always used to have a right wing. This phrase became shortened to 'the right': regiments would compete for the honour of being on the right, and now sports teams may play the ball 'to the right'. Politicians, too, may be on 'the right': this usage, of left wing, right wing and centre, dates back to the early days of the French Revolution, which "originated in the French National Assembly of 1789, in which the nobles as a body took the position of honour on the President's right, and the Third Estate sat on his left. The significance of these positions, which was at first merely ceremonial, soon became political" (OED).
    • Another set of noun meanings is developed from the idea of 'correct'. A right to something is a title or claim to it: a legally enforceable kind of potential ownership, or at least ability. In most European monarchies, the eldest son of a reigning King or Queen who dies has the right to the throne. Anyone may succeed to a property by right of inheritance. All readers of AWE have human rights, under the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. In the UK, we share the legal right not to be beaten, by the police or anybody else. The phrase right to life has become almost exclusively applied to those who oppose abortion, and claim that the foetus has a right to be born. A right of way is the legal permission to travel over a particular path or road, as a car on a mian road has right of way over another car on a minor road or side street.

The precise signification of OED (2003)'s meaning 3, "That which is consonant with justice, goodness, or reason; something morally or socially correct, just, or honourable", forms a large part of courses in Philosophy, as the second main branch of meaning, "Legal, moral, or natural entitlement, and related uses" is important in all studies of Politics, Law and International Relations.