Printable Version
Pronunciation: ri-mi-shên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. The act of remitting, of sending something under special circumstances. 2. Abatement, let-up, or reduction in severity, as a chronic disease in remission. 3. Forgiveness, absolution, as a remission for naughty behavior or remission of taxes to attract new businesses.

Notes: Today's is a heavy duty Good Word, with meanings that span a wide spectrum. It is one of the nouns based on the underlying verb remit. Others include remittance "that which is remitted or sent in" and remitter "he or she who remits". If you enjoy tossing the occasional 18th century word into your conversations, you might call someone who has received remission for their sins a remissionary. (No, this word does not refer to the second person sent to a mission.) Remit also has an adjective, remiss "negligent, slacking one's duty".

In Play: Today's word is less interesting as the action noun for remit (Meaning No. 1) than as a medical and religious term. However, remember that diseases are not the only things that go into remission: "The rain pounded the metal roof throughout the night without remission." Also keep in mind that church is not the only place to find remission for our sins: "Mama, if you will grant me remission for staying out too late last night and not ground me, I promise to come home on time the rest of the year."

Word History: English gathered this jewel from Old French when it was gathering French lexical jewels. Old French inherited it from the Latin noun based on a verb that had a lot of meanings itself: remittere "to let go back, slacken, free from, forgive". The root of this verb, mit-, was associated with sending or allowing, so we find it in a wide array of English borrowings that suggest sending: submit, permit, admit (into), transmit. The nouns corresponding to these verbs are all based on the past participle of mittere, missus, and so will contain Ss instead of Ts: mission, submission, permission, and so on. (It would, indeed, be remiss of me to forget the remission of our gratitude to Jeremy Busch for suggesting today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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