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Dispatch versus Despatch

Dispatch versus Despatch

Dispatch versus Despatch

Hi, new user here, the thread I was following seems to have been closed, but for the sake of accuracy, the words 'Dispatch', and 'Despatch' are not a spelling variation of each other though that is a common usage. The original correct usage is that a 'Dispatch' is a message sent from one location to another, as in "The pony express sent a dispatch to you yesterday.", whereas 'Despatch' means to send something on it's way. That can be either figuratively, or literally, as in "The stage coach was despatched an hour ago", or "With his sword he rapidly despatched the beast". I imagine that the confusion of usage comes about because the two words are obviously very closely related, in fact they are the verb and noun of the same root. One is the object, one is the action. This is upheld in general by older dictionaries formulated before the general confusion of usage became widespread. Even today the Cambridge dictionary seems to suffer this confusion, although while dispatch is used as both noun, and verb, depending on country, despatch seems to more commonly be used only as a verb. It can also be seen in examples given in the Cambridge dictionary of UK idiom, that the UK uses dispatch generally as the noun only, and despatch as the verb. Please don't take this up with me, have a good read of some of the older dictionaries, and this quickly becomes fairly evident, although later American dictionaries struggle to identify the difference between the two, indicating that it's possible America never differentiated between the two words, or that America used the same word for both verb and noun, whereas it was differentiated in it's originating country.

RE: Dispatch versus Despatch

Here in US Micro$oft Word, every 'Despatch' in your text is underlined and considered miss spelled.

What I have an issue with is your (any many, many other people’s) use of ‘America’. People in Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay, Costa Rica, and many, many more countries do not have this problem since they mostly speak Spanish (or Portuguese). And they, too, live in America.
Nobody in France claims: “We, European” and talk about only French people excluding all other European nations.

Just the food for thought poke

---- Andy

There is a great need for a sarcasm font.

RE: Dispatch versus Despatch

Mighty Nads,

It's not a question of a dictionary being old, nor does it make sense to talk of a dictionary "suffering confusion" or "struggling to identify" something. A dictionary simply records the meaning of a word as it is used. If there is any confusion, it is on the part of the people using the word. And the dictionary reflects that.

My own dictionary (Chambers) indicates that "despatch" and "dispatch" are interchangeable but with the latter being the more common usage. According to this dictionary, both can be used as nouns and both as verbs. And it makes no distinction between UK and US usage.

Personally, I would always use "dispatch", it being the version that is more familiar to most English-speaking people, whether British, American or anything else.

Welcome to the forum, by the way.

Andy, the fact that your version of the Word dictionary underlines "despatch" does not make it a spelling error. It just means that that version of the word is not in the dictionary. The dictionary I am using to spell-check this message in Mozilla Firefox does not underline "despatch". That doesn't that prove anything either. (What's more interesting is that you seem to have misspelt the word "misspelt" - that's just the sort of thing I do all the time.)


Mike Lewis (Edinburgh, Scotland)

Visual FoxPro articles, tips and downloads

RE: Dispatch versus Despatch

Thee and Thou, while perfectly good words, are considered archaic and not used in the current vernacular. I feel the same way about despatch. Perfectly good word, just not used any more. But that is an opinion...glasses

Dermis and feline can be divorced by manifold methods.*
*(Disclaimer for all advise given)--'Version Dependent'

RE: Dispatch versus Despatch

>just not used any more

British (and Australian) parliament might be a bit suprised by this assertion, just as one example ...

RE: Dispatch versus Despatch


British (and Australian) parliament might be a bit suprised by this assertion

I assume you are referring to the "despatch box". That is indeed the normal usage in that context.

And to go back to my Chambers dictionary, if it believed that "despatch" was archaic or obsolete, it would have said so, but it didn't. It simply gave it as an alternative to "dispatch" - different spelling, same meanings.


Mike Lewis (Edinburgh, Scotland)

Visual FoxPro articles, tips and downloads

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