I've been wondering what the origins of the verb 'to miss', as in a to have a longing for, come from. Is it anywhere similar to the origins of the verb 'to miss' as in to not hit?

  • 1
    – mplungjan
    Mar 10, 2011 at 10:08
  • That says when the word got it's meaning, but no explanation as to how it came about or why it's the same word used as another seemingly very different word.
    – Harold
    Mar 10, 2011 at 10:10
  • Hence I commented rather than answered. Meaning "to fail to get what one wanted" is from mid-13c. Sense of "to escape, avoid" is from 1520s; that of "to perceive with regret the absence or loss of (something or someone)" is from late 15c.
    – mplungjan
    Mar 10, 2011 at 10:17

1 Answer 1


If you miss your mother, you do not have what you want (her). If you miss your target, you do not have what you want (a hit) either. This use of the mental conception of "having something" has apparently shifted a bit from "keeping physically near" to "counting among one's successes" in the case of the verb to miss. You could say that "having someone near", "having something in possession", and "having success" are linked in some way.

You might also define both senses by using a word other than "having", in which case you'd need to describe some other but similar metaphoric shift in meaning; I believe this shift in to miss and "having" is all part of a vague complex of conceptions of "nearness" and "possession" and "likeness" that are intimately connected in our minds. This is probably because in Prehistoric times the concepts of physical dimensions, movement, and time developed first; our patterns of thinking about those concepts we later reused for (often abstract) phenomena that are essentially different but can still be dealt with in useful ways by means of these patterns (large chance: I see no "large" object?; the well runs dry: what is it that "runs"?; you have a point: I see nothing "pointy"?' etc.). See the Wikipedia article on Conceptual Metaphor.

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