Words-worth: Delivery

Once upon a time, 'delivery' was a matter for posties, spin-bowlers and maternity hospitals. But now everyone has to 'deliver', whether they are heading a FTSE-100 company or driving a milk-float. 'Deliver' and 'delivery' come from the same Latin root - the verb liberare - as 'liberate' and 'liberty'. First recorded in the 13th century, the verb 'to deliver' has always had several meanings. It means 'to free', as in delivering someone from captivity, or from evil. It means to hand something over, as in a newspaper. And it means to launch or throw, as in delivering a blow or a speech. 'Delivery' arrived at the end of the 15th century. In early uses something concrete was delivered. Nowadays, it can be much more intangible: results, skills, advice and, most intangibly of all, solutions. But we also talk about delivering, with no object, as in 'the board expects you to deliver'. This is a piece of US slang from the mid-20th century. What you are really expected to deliver is 'the goods'. But you knew that.

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

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