dispatch (v.) [<--] 1510s, "to send off in a hurry," from a word in Spanish (despachar "expedite, hasten") or Italian (dispacciare "to dispatch"). For first element, see dis-. The exact source of the second element has been proposed as
[1.] Vulgar Latin * pactare "to fasten, fix" or * pactiare,
[2.] or as Latin -pedicare "to entrap"
(from Latin pedica "shackle;" see impeach); and the Spanish and Italian words seem to be related to (perhaps opposites of) Old Provençal empachar "impede." See OED for full discussion. Meaning "to get rid of by killing" is attested from 1520s. [...] As a noun, from 1540s, originally "dismissal;" sense of "a message sent speedily" is first attested 1580s.

[OED:] [...] Not related to French dépêcher , which gave the English depesshe, depeach n., common in 15–16th cent., rare after 1600, and apparently superseded by dispatch before 1650. [...]

1. Why was "to fasten, fix" proposed as a possible etymon? How does it relate?
2. Also, why was "to entrap" proposed as a possible etymon? How does it relate?

Please expose and explain all hidden, missing semantic drifts and links. What is a right way of interpreting the etymology, to understand how the proposed semantic jumps, abstracted and severed from the original literal meaning?

PS: I heeded Etymonline's advice to 'see OED', but neither bridges the proposed semantic jumps.

  • 2
    I don't know, but one could imagine that when something is dispatched it is moved- as in sent somewhere, which is the opposite of fastening it in place. To dispatch something I must first unfasten it, or free it from whatever is trapping it in place. Incidentally to get rid of by killing likely refers to unfastening the soul/spirit from the body/mortal world and sending it to heaven/hell. – Jim Jun 22 '15 at 4:06
  • @Jim, you could probably submit your comment as a full fledged answer. I can see the same semantic path explained in the French etymology of dépêcher. The meaning of 'to rapidly send in the afterworld' is well attested in French as well. As an aside, the semantic evolution went even one step further in French since its main meaning is now that of 'to hurry'. – Alain Pannetier Φ Jun 22 '15 at 4:14
  • Good question; too broad. Please edit to focus closely. – Kris Jun 22 '15 at 6:15
  • To let loose, to set loose. – TRomano Jun 22 '15 at 14:07

Dispatch seems to have been intended more in the sense of "expedite" than "send (occasionally, off this world)" as is more common today. Cf. Sir Christopher said the overall impression in this case was of a child protection investigation conducted ‘with dispatch or perhaps undue haste’. (ODO, see below)

dispatch on ODO

Early 16th century: from Italian dispacciare or Spanish despachar 'expedite', from dis-, des- (expressing reversal) + the base of Italian impacciare, Spanish empachar 'hinder'.

Nearly everything needed appears to be already there in the question. Just a clearer semantic review is all it takes.

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