I recently subscribed to the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the day RSS feed. It paid off with an interesting entry pretty quickly: remiss. The word has a long and versatile history, with a host of definitions, mostly obsolete, and a lengthy, interesting etymology. The third and fourth definitions cover the modern meanings.
- 1a. Chiefly medical. Of a physical property or quality: reduced in intensity. Also of urine: dilute, watery. Obsolete.
- 1b. Dissolved; liquid. Obsolete.
- 1c. Originally: (of a sound) weak, soft, low. In later use: (of a syllable) unstressed.
- 1d. Of a condition, disease, etc.: not intense or strong; moderate, mild. Obsolete.
- 1e. Of degree: moderate, low, slight; lesser. Obsolete.
- 1f. Of taste or flavour: faint, slight. Obsolete. Rare.
- 2. Reduced in tension; slack, loose; relaxed. Obsolete.
- 3a. Of a person, an organization, etc.: neglectful in the discharge of a task or duty; careless, negligent.
- 3b. Of conduct, an action, etc.: characterized by carelessness, negligence, or lack of attention.
- 4a. Characterized by a lack of strictness or proper restraint; lax, undisciplined. In later use merging with sense 3.
- 4b. Not strict or severe in punishing; lenient. In later use merging with sense 3a.
- 5. Delayed, postponed. Obsolete.
- 6a. Free from vehemence or violence; gentle; (also) lacking in energy or effort. Obsolete.
- 6b. Free from work or labour. Obsolete. Rare.
And the etymology:
- Anglo-Norman and Middle French remis, remisse, meaning melted (of wax, etc.) (first half of the 13th cent. in Anglo-Norman), diminished, weakened, exhausted (c1240), weak, negligent, lazy (c1310), delayed, postponed (a1405), calm, serene (1496), (of a vowel) weak, soft, low (1521) and its etymon classical Latin remissus, meaning not drawn tight, slack, drooping, sagging, loosely arranged, (of activity or sound) free from passion or vehemence, gentle, relaxed, mild, (of people) free from constraint or solemnity, light-hearted, easy-going, slack, casual, lenient, forbearing, (of conditions) moderate, (of remedies) not potent, (of a patient) free from fever, in post-classical Latin also meaning dissolved, liquid (5th cent. in Palladius), weak or weakened in consistency or colour (1363 in Chauliac).