Etymology: Southpaw

I’ve wondered about this ever since I first heard it when I saw the movie ‘Rocky’. Why do the call lefties ‘Southpaws’?

Believe it or not, it comes from the fact that in the late 1800’s, most baseball diamonds were all set up facing the same direction. Pitcher’s facing the mound with the right hands on the north side and the left hands on the south side (so pitchers must have been facing west). Those that that threw with they left hands were throwing with their south “paw.” I don’t know where I learned this from, but if I can find a valid source, I will post it.

Thanks that was bugging me. And your answer makes sense I’ve heard the same thing about how baseball diamonds used to be constructed.

Okay, I found a source to back me up. Wilton’s Etymology Page ( states:


Southpaw has its origins in 1880s’ baseball slang. Baseball diamonds were often arranged so the batters would face east, to avoid looking into the afternoon sun. The pitcher’s left hand, or paw, would therefore be on the southern side.

Well, Beauxeau, you can’t find a more valid source than one which agrees with Cecil. Good catch, and welcome to the Straight Dope Message Board.

Livin’ on Tums, vitamin E and Rogaine

Thanks manhattan, I’ve been lurking for a while now and I think I know enough of the situation here to start contributing.

Here’s the word detective’s take:

Sounds like another “unknown”