• To partially reduce or wholly cancel the payment of a debt or the execution of a punishment; to relieve from guilt or suffering
  • To pardon or forgive a wrongdoing or crime
  • To send money in payment for a debt
  • To abstain from or reduce a mood, state of mind, or activity
  • To return someone or something to a previous condition
  • To be reduced in severity or quantity (of medical symptoms)


  • Something sent back for further review, especially a case sent back from one court of law to another
  • Domain of responsibility; scope


Are you looking for a multifunctional word that you can use at the bank, in a church, at a hospital, or in a court room? Remit might be the word for you! Let's start with money matters. One of the most common uses of remit today is the meaning of sending money in payment. For example, if you owe a sum of money to the bank, then you will need to remit payment to them. However, if you owe a lot of money and actually possess very little money, then you might hope that the bank will remit you instead. In that context, remit would refer to the bank reducing or entirely pardoning your debt. If the bank remits your debt entirely, then you won't have to remit the money to the bank.

You might use remit in a similar way in a church. Religions such as Christianity believe that, because of sin, humans owe a debt to God. Just as criminals guilty of a crime must pay their debt by receiving their punishment, so sinners must justly be punished by God. However, if God remits a person's sin, then that person is pardoned for their wrongdoing and relieved of guilt. Remit can carry this same basic meaning in less cosmic cases of justice as well. In cases of human law, a government can remit a person's sentence either in the sense of freeing them entirely or, more commonly, in the sense of reducing the length or intensity of the punishment. For example, a convicted thief who behaves very well in prison might have his sentence of six years remitted to only four.

Remit can carry the idea of reducing in intensity in other contexts as well. In particular, it is sometimes used to speak about a person reducing or eliminating certain attitudes or ways of thinking from themselves. For example, if you are dealing with a child who has a bad attitude (but stellar vocabulary), you might advise him to remit his impudent behavior. Similarly, remit can refer to a reduction of severity in medical symptoms.

Directly resulting from its origin, remit can carry the idea of "returning" or "sending back." Remit can refer to the act of a person or thing returning to a prior state of being. For example, if the impudent child in the previous example were to behave nicely for a time, but then eventually start to scream and complain again, we could say that the child has remitted to his rebellious attitude. And as a noun, remit can be used to refer to something that is being sent back somewhere for further action or consideration. Most often this meaning is used in law, where it refers to a case being sent from one court back to another for further review.

And while we're on the subject of jurisdiction, remit (mostly in British English) can also mean the domain or authority to perform a particular function. For example, if you were a teacher then disciplining an impudent child would fall within your remit.

Example: Edgar was relieved when the king decided to remit his sentence from public execution to public flogging.

Example: Many religions believe that the Divine requires a sacrifice of some kind in order to remit human sins.

Example: The insurance company assures us that they will promptly remit to us full monetary compensation for Emelie's injuries

Example: It certainly would not do Joan any harm to remit her arrogant attitude.

Example: Karen decided to remit Stanley back into his previous position with the company.

Example: It took Walter a couple months to figure out what the functional remit of his new managerial position really was.


Remit entered English in the 14th century with the meaning of forgiving or pardoning. It derives from the Latin verb remittere, which had the meaning of sending back or reducing in intensity. The Latin prefix "re-" means "back" and "mittere" means "send." The meaning of remit in English expanded in the 15th century to include "permitting a debt to remain unpaid," and it gained the meaning of "sending money for payment" in the early 17th century.

Derivative Words

Remits: The present third person singular tense communicates an ongoing action of any of remit's various verb meanings.

Example: A merciful man always remits the debts of the destitute and desperate.

Remitted: The past tense of remit can also be used as an adjective form to describe something which has been reduced, pardoned, sent in payment, etc.

Example: "But I remitted the money to you a week ago!" gasped Miss Yagami.

Example: The remitted criminal began trying to work hard and atone for his mistakes as soon as he was free.

Remitting: The present participle or gerund form of remit communicates an immediately occurring or continuously occurring action of any of remit's various verb meanings.

Example: I am remitting my selfish attitude as best I can.

Example: Not remitting payment to us in a timely fashion is the last mistake he'll ever make.

Remission: Remission is a noun which can refer to cancellation of a debt, forgiveness of sins, or a reduction of intensity in medical symptoms.

Example: Christians believe that they are granted remission of their sins through faith in Jesus Christ's death and resurrection.

Example: After several hours of pain, Abdul's discomfort was lessened by a rapid remission of his fever and headache.

In Literature

From Saint Augustine's City of God:

Many precepts are given which carefully inculcate mutual forgiveness; among which we may number that terrible word in which the servant is ordered to pay his formerly remitted debt of ten thousand talents, because he did not remit to his fellow servant his debt of two hundred pence.

Here, Augustine uses remit to communicate how the first servant was brought under the full weight of his massive debt, because he refused to forgive his fellow servant for a small debt even after the king had shown him mercy and allowed his massive debt to go unpaid.

From The Economist (Feb 1st, 2014): The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Caveat vendor:

A new regulator takes an expansive view of its remit.

In this subtitle, remit is used to indicate the domain of responsibility of a federal government bureau.


Religion, Debt, Payment, Law, Medicine

Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of remit. Did you use remit in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.