Missions and Omissions

By Mark Nichol

The words listed and defined in this post all stem from the Latin verb mittere, which means “send.” They have in common the element mit (or miss).

To admit (literally, “send to”), for example, is to allow something to enter or be sent in, though the word also pertains to acknowledging or conceding something. Such a concession is also referred to as an admission, while in addition, admission is the process or state of allowing entrance or the fee paid for entrance, and admissible means “able to be admitted” (usually in a legal context).

To commit (“send with”) is to obligate or pledge oneself or another to a task, to entrust for safekeeping, or to promise resources; it also applies to carrying out a crime or to placing someone in a mental hospital or in prison. An obligation or pledge, or an act of entrusting or placing, is a commitment, while the enactment of a crime is a commission. That word also pertains to a group of people convened to accomplish a task (a commissioner is an individual given such a charge); committee is a cognate synonym. Commission also applies to a fee paid to an agent or an employee for selling something and to an authorization given to someone, as in the conferral of military authority and rank. As a verb, it applies to making an assignment or order or preparing a vessel for operation.

Emit (“send out”) usually is employed in the context of giving out energy such as light or heat, or a scent. In addition, one may emit a sound, and something officially issued may be emitted. On who does so is an emitter, and an emission is something sent out; the term usually applies to exhaust fumes from a vehicle.

To omit (“send out,” from the notion of sending it so that it is not included) is to leave out; something excluded is an omission. To permit (“send forward”) is to allow, and the word serves as a noun describing documentation allowing something to be done or to happen, while the authority granted to do something is permission. Remit (“send back”) pertains to sending something (such as money) or to canceling a debt or other obligation. The word is also a noun referring to an area of authority or responsibility, while the noun remission not only refers to canceling or reducing something but also to an improvement of health. (In this case, a patient is said to be in remission.)

Submit (“send under”) means “place under control of another” or “refer to another for consideration”; the act of doing so in either sense is submission. (That word also pertains in the second sense to the thing submitted.) Transmit (“send across”) pertains to conveying something (such as a disease) or conducting energy or sending a message in the form of electric signals. In addition to serving as the noun form for these senses, transmission pertains to the system of parts that conveys power to a vehicle. (Informally, car mechanics and enthusiasts use the nickname tranny in this sense, though the word is also a sometimes pejorative truncation of the word transvestite.)

Definitions for less common descendants of mittere follow: To demit (“send down”) is to resign or to withdraw from membership or office, to intermit (“send between”) is to discontinue, to manumit (“send from one’s hand”) is to release from slavery, and to pretermit (“send past”) is to let pass, neglect, or suspend. Demit has no forms in other parts of speech, but intermittent means “at intervals” or “seasonally,” an intermission is an interruption (usually, a scheduled break in the midst of a live performance or a film screening), and manumission is a synonym for emancipation (which shares an element meaning “hand”), or freeing from slavery. Pretermission is synonymous with omission.

A subsequent post will detail members of the mittere family in which the root is disguised.

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