remit {verb} [with object] = 2. Send (money) in payment or as a gift
[Synonyms:] send, dispatch, forward, transmit, convey; ...

[Etymonline]: late 14c., "to forgive, pardon," from Latin remittere "send back, slacken, let go back, abate," from re- "back" (see re-) + mittere "to send" (see mission). Meaning "allow to remain unpaid" is from mid-15c. Meaning "send money (to someone)" first recorded 1630s. Related: Remitted; remitting.

I wish to delve into the definition, which I already understand and so ask NOT about. I heed the Etymological Fallacy. What are right ways of interpreting or rationalizing this meaning, to intuit or naturalise it, and to help me remember?

How can one synonym be to forward, because this is the opposite direction of the prefix re- "back"? what happened to this prefix? ODO simply defines this word as send, not send back.

  • Because words don't always make sense. English doesn't either. We overload certain words because that's just the way things turned out.
    – Robusto
    Mar 21, 2015 at 1:52

2 Answers 2


Disclaimer: I speak entirely from personal logic, with no authoritative sources other than the raw definitions to back me.

Remit arises from the idea that I send you a demand for payment, and you send back the payment. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/remit says: "to send (money) to a person or place especially in payment of a demand, account, or draft") If the money is given without having been requested, it was not remitted, only sent or delivered or some such.

To forward is simply "to send (something that has arrived, such as a letter) to another place" (again, per http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/forward).

In both cases the primary operation is that of sending, and thus, in that sense, the words are approximately synonymous. This does NOT mean that they are interchangeable under any circumstance, merely that they express some aspect of the same basic function.

If you want to rationalize why forward is listed as a "synonym" of remit, you should consider that the listing of synonyms is intended to provide more of a thesaurus-style function: words that are related, not words that are drop-in replacements.


Remit has always been a curious word for me, mostly for the reasons you mentioned. If the etymology of the word is to "let go back," then this suggests to me that this word has its roots in language spoken by subjects in a monarchy. Case in point: the word real in real estate has its roots in language spoken by subjects of a monarchy: real essentially means royal. In Spanish, real literally means royal. In a monarchy, the estate is the whole country (e.g. "The King's lands").

Today, the word real in real estate is a placeholder for the governing entity that owns land within political boundaries. In the United States, all real estate is taxed by various levels of government. If you want to find out who truly owns your land, stop paying the associated taxes. You'll find out the hard way who really owns your land. In a manner of speaking, these governing bodies are "allowing" you to own your land.

In monarchies of old, the king or queen owned all the money in circulation. Non-royals were allowed to have money at the pleasure of the monarchs. When the monarchy wanted that money back, the people would be required to remit that money. In other words, the people were required to let that money go back to the monarchy. The word remit was probably used so much and was associated with paying taxes so much that the concept of letting money go back became a substitute for paying.

So send back does not mean to forward in the literal sense in the word remit. Sometimes the context under which a word has been used repeatedly becomes more important of the definition of that word.

  • 'real' in Spanish means 'regal' and is cognate with Latin 'rex'. 'real' in 'real estate' (in English) is cognate with 'reality' (even though it seems like it means something very distinct) and is cognate with Latin 'res'.
    – Mitch
    Mar 24, 2015 at 19:11
  • "real" in Spanish actually has two meanings: "actual" ("en la vida real" or "in real life") or "royal" ("El Camino Real" or "The Royal Way"). The Italian word "reale" has the same dual meaning. The Portuguese word "real" also means royal. These languages come from countries with either current or historical monarchies. Since English comes from one of the most famous monarchies in the world, it is reasonable to suppose that the word "real" in "real estate" has some kind of relationship to royal property. But that's IMHO.
    – Snapman
    Mar 24, 2015 at 20:43

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