Words; express, v, n, or adj.

Click to follow
The Independent Online
FROM THE Latin ex-, out of, and pressare, to press, express ought to mean to form by pressing out - and indeed that was its original meaning. So how did the hastiness now associated with the word arrive?

The answer is: by train. From its original meaning, express was already being used by Chaucer to refer to the explicit representation of a fact or concept. One could express oneself in words as well as by pressing out a physical image. In either case, there was an implication of precision and deliberateness.

So when, in the mid-19th century, a word was sought for a train scheduled to go from A to B without calling at intervening stations, they called it an express train. Direct and non-stop, it was also, not unnaturally, fast, which soon became the primary meaning.