Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between “Despatch” and “Dispatch”

“Despatch” vs “Dispatch”

“Despatch” and “dispatch” might sound similar, and you might be surprised that the two words also share the same meaning. Both words mean the act of sending something or someone to a specific place regarding a situation. The same applies to the object or someone being sent. Another context where both terms are used is in terms of killing someone.

Both “despatch” and “dispatch” can function as verbs and nouns. As a verb, both terms can be used as transitive verbs.

The main difference between the two terms is their spellings. The word “dispatch” is spelled with the letter “i” while “despatch” is spelled with the letter “e.”

The reason for the difference in the spelling and vowel usage began when Dr. Samuel Johnson, an Englishman, used “des” as the form of the word in his dictionary, A Dictionary of the English Language (written in 1755). The standard form of the word was “dis,” which was introduced and used from the 1500s onwards.

Despite the variation in spelling, both words descended from the same Latin root word.

Another difference is the people and the place where the terms are used. The British are known to use the word “despatch” rather than “dispatch.” However, this has become rare with the influence of American English in the world. Meanwhile, “dispatch” is the American version of “despatch.” This version is more popular, more commonly used, and regarded as the correct spelling of the term.

The origins of both words are also different. “Dispatch” came from the Italian word “dispacciare.” On the other hand, “despatch” came from the Spanish word “despachar.”

“Despatch”, as a word, actually exists as a functioning term in the shipping industry. The word refers to a payment of a ship’s owner to a charter party if a certain shipment is late for delivery.
“Dispatch,” as the more popular term, is the most accepted spelling of the word. Many editors and computers often regard the word “despatch” not as an alternate word for “dispatch” but as a misspelling. “Despatch” is not an acceptable variation of the word yet premier British dictionaries like the Oxford Dictionary accepts both variations of the words as correct.

  1. Both “despatch” and “dispatch” have the same meaning and almost the same sound. Both terms function as nouns and verbs (transitive verbs, to be exact).  “Despatch” and “dispatch” can refer to the object or the act of sending or killing.
  2. The main difference between the two terms are the spellings. “Despatch” has the letter “e” while “dispatch” contains the letter “i.” The difference in spellings originated in 1755 when a dictionary introduced the form of “des.” However, both variations are accepted by British standards. Meanwhile, “dispatch” is the acceptable spelling for people who use American English.
  3. The two terms have different origins but retain the same Latin root word. “Despatch” came from the Spanish “despachar” while the Italian “dispacciare” formed the basis and formed the modern word of “dispatch.”
  4. “Despatch” is the British form and variant of the term. Meanwhile, “dispatch” is the American version. The latter version retains the standard form used since the 1500s.
  5. “Despatch” is becoming rare as an alternate spelling and word for “dispatch.” This is due to the popularity and wide usage of American English in many countries. The latter is the most accepted spelling term in modern usage.
  6. Aside from being used interchangeably with “dispatch”, “despatch” also functions as a term in the shipping industry. In this respect, “despatch” means a payment for a delayed shipment by the ship’s owner to a charter party.


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1 Comment

  1. Interesting and subtle! A little typo here, though:

    On the other hand, “dispatch” came from the Spanish word “despachar.”
    (Should read “despatch”)

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