I was researching the etymology of 'commission {noun}' which just diverts you to:

commit (v.)
late 14c., "to give in charge, entrust," from Latin committere "to unite, connect, combine; to bring together," from com- "together" (see com-) + mittere "to put, send" (see mission). Evolution into modern range of meanings is not entirely clear. Sense of "perpetrating" was ancient in Latin; in English from mid-15c. ...

Please help me dig deeper than the definitions , which I already understand and so ask NOT about. I heed the Etymological Fallacy, but what are some right ways of interpreting this etymology and filling in the gaps that are not entirely clear, to make them feel reasonable and intuitive? I don't quote the even brusquer OED.

Would someone please explain how com- combins with mittere to mean 'to commit' and finally the noun 'commission'?

1 Answer 1


The particles making "commission" were the preposition cum (with) and the Past (or Perfect) Passive Participle of mittere which was missus. English acquired a number of words from missus including "mission" and "remission".
The vowel in cum altered slightly to com to accommodate the phonic scheme of the speakers of the time. So, we can have the word commissus which can mean "sent with".

The Latin word commissione may have existed as a Nominative. But commissio is a known Nominative form. That word can be translated as the English "commission" in some contexts. English has generally not acquiresd words directly from Latin for general use. There has usually been a specific purpose for the acquisition. This may be the case here, but there may well have been multiple acquistions involved.

Words in English deriving from com missus may well have come into English after they had developed several specific meanings in other languages, mostly Latin and French. The English word "commission" may mean several things, all of which can reasonably be rationalized as coming from com missus. But there seems no open trails to discover exactly how the varying meanings developed. There would be no good purpose in guessing how the different definitions came to be, even if curiosity might be sated by the exercise. One's mind need not stretch too far to imagine how specific uses in Government, the Military and the Judiciary could create different definitions for the same word.

  • +1 for there would be no good purpose in guessing how the different definitions came to be, which is a message I've tried endlessly to convey on questions like these. Also to prevent the question from being bumped to the front page again in a few months. Old-question-bumping drives me nuts.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 20:36
  • Understood. I'm glad you put the question out of its misery.... Dan Bron
    – J. Taylor
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 21:08

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