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Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people, according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory. Rights are of essential importance in such disciplines as law and ethics, especially theories of justice and deontology.

Rights are often considered fundamental to civilization, being regarded as established pillars of society and culture, and the history of social conflicts can be found in the history of each right and its development. The connection between rights and struggle cannot be overstated — rights are not as much granted or endowed as they are fought for and claimed, and the essence of struggles past and ancient are encoded in the spirit of current concepts of rights and their modern formulations.



The Modern English word right derives from Old English riht or reht, in turn from Proto-Germanic *riχtaz meaning “right" or "direct”, and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *reg-to- meaning “having moved in a straight line”, in turn from *(o)reg'(a)- meaning “to straighten or direct”.[1] In several different Indo-European languages, a single word derived from the same root means both "right" and "law", such as French droit[2], Spanish derecho[3], and German recht[4].

Many other words related to normative or regulatory concepts derive from this same root, including correct[5], regulate[6], and rex[7] (meaning "king"), whence regal[8] and thence royal[9]. Likewise many more geometric terms derive from this same root, such as erect (as in "upright")[10], rectangle (literally "right angle")[11], straight[12] and stretch[13]. Like right, the English words rule[14] and ruler[15], deriving still from the same root, have both normative or regulatory and geometric meanings (e.g. a ruler as in a king, or a ruler as in a straightedge).

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