verb (used with object)
verb (used without object)
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Origin of launch1
OTHER WORDS FROM launchlaunch·a·ble, adjectiveun·launched, adjectivewell-launched, adjective
Words nearby launch
Definition for launch (2 of 2)
Origin of launch2
BEHIND THE WORD
Where does launch come from?
Rocket ships and medieval knights wouldn’t seem like they have a lot in common. We launch rocket ships into outer space—something those old knights, trotting around on horseback and wielding their lances, could hardly have ever imagined.
Launch entered English around 1300–50. Back then, launch meant “to rush, spring (into motion), send forth, hurl (a weapon).” Launch comes from French, which in turn comes from Late Latin lanceāre, “to wield a lance.” This verb, lanceāre, is based on the Latin noun lancea, “lance, spear.” The Latin lancea may ultimately come from an ancient Celtic word.
As you’ve probably guessed, the Latin lancea is the ultimate source of the English lance, originally “a long wooden shaft with a pointed metal head, used as a weapon by knights and cavalry soldiers in charging.” Slightly older than the verb launch, lance entered English around 1250–1300.
Now, the Late Latin verb lanceāre also yields (through French) the English verb lance. Today, that verb is mainly used for actions of piercing and making incisions—much finer and more careful cuts, thankfully, than resulted from a knight’s lance. But in the early 1300s, lance was effectively a synonym for launch, also meaning “to throw or hurl.”
When did we start saying we launched such things as boats? That sense of launch is so far first evidenced, as it happens, during the heydey of knights launching lances. This sense of launch, meaning “to a set (a boat or ship) in the water,” is recorded in the Alliterative Morte Arthure, a remarkable poem about that legendary leader of knights, King Arthur, dated to around 1400.
The basic, underlying sense of launch (“to send forth”) has inspired many other metaphorical extensions, from launching careers and launching products to book launches, campaign launches, and, by the time we entered the Space Age, rocket launches.
Did you know ... ?
Speaking of King Arthur, his greatest knight—and most notorious, thanks to his love affair with Queen Guinevere—was Lancelot. As legend has it, Lancelot was also one of the greatest jousters of his day. Jousters fight on horseback with lances. Is that how Lancelot got his name?
That Lancelot is spelled like lance appears to be the result of association, the name shaped into its form under the influence of French. The origin of the name Lancelot is obscure, but it is probably ultimately Celtic or Germanic. You might say that efforts to root Lancelot simply in lance have failed to … launch.
Example sentences from the Web for launch
An arrow appears indicating the direction you will launch your ball.Lost For Thousands of Strokes: 'Desert Golfing' Is 'Angry Birds' as Modern Art|Alec Kubas-Meyer|January 2, 2015|DAILY BEAST
With those words was a promise to launch the first group of passengers in the coming year.You Were Wrong About Miley & Bitcoin: 2014’s Failed Predictions|Nina Strochlic|December 31, 2014|DAILY BEAST
And, with Coca-Cola announcing the launch of a new milk product, the beverage could be back in our hands before we know it.
He argues persuasively that the decision to launch the attack was completely contrary to reason and good military judgment.
Instead, they saw music videos as a launch pad for a whole new artistic movement: virality.OK Go Is Helping Redefine the Music Video For the Internet Age|Lauren Schwartzberg|December 15, 2014|DAILY BEAST
It has no power, but perhaps you could tow it behind your launch.Roy Blakeley|Percy Keese Fitzhugh
He had not sought the kindly fish boss yet to tell him of the loss of the launch.The Boy Chums Cruising in Florida Waters|Wilmer M. Ely
Then he directed them by twos into the small boat from the launch, which had come as far inshore as possible.The Web of the Golden Spider|Frederick Orin Bartlett
It was not a particularly thick one and the stream was tugging frantically at the launch.The Boy Scouts at the Panama Canal|John Henry Goldfrap
Hawkins eyed me coldly for a minute, admonished me not to be an ass, and went on untying the launch.Mr. Hawkins' Humorous Adventures|Edgar Franklin
British Dictionary definitions for launch (1 of 2)
- to start off or set in motionto launch a scheme
- to put (a new product) on the market