What is the origin of velitation?
English velitation comes from Latin vēlitātiōn- (stem of vēlitātiō) “skirmish,” ultimately a derivation of vēles (stem vēlit-) “light-armed foot soldier wearing little armor, skirmisher,” which is a derivative from the adjective vēlox (stem vēlōc-) “quick, rapid, speedy” (and the source of English velocity). The vēlitēs, a specialized unit of soldiers in the ancient Roman army, were armed with swords, javelins, and small round shields and were stationed in front of the legionary lines. Before the main action began, these skirmishers threw their javelins at the enemy lines to break up their formation and then rapidly withdrew to the rear of the legionary lines. Vēlitēs as a type of soldier or unit in the Roman army were relatively brief: they are first mentioned about 211 b.c. in the dark, dark days (for Rome) of the Second Punic War (218–201 b.c.). The vēlitēs were probably formed owing to lowered property qualifications for military service in 214 b.c. and were drawn from the lowest, youngest, and poorest citizens. Vēlitēs are last mentioned in the Jugurthine War of 112-106 b.c.; presumably they were subsumed into the centuries (a company consisting of approximately 100 men) in a later reorganization of the Roman army. Velitation entered English in the 17th century.