Dispatch vs. Despatch

Is it dispatch or despatch? Which word should you use if you were in a spelling bee if this word is asked? Differentiating between the two terms is essential for your writing to be more understandable to your audience.

Find out the difference between dispatch and despatch, their origin, and their correct spelling. You’ll learn how to use the word in sentences.

There is no difference between dispatch and despatch. The latter is an alternative spelling common in the 19th century and earlier, but dispatch has gained undisputed dominance in modern English.

The meaning of dispatch and despatch is the act of sending someone or something to a location. Both spellings are correct, but dispatch is the American spelling, while despatch is the British variant of the term. Despatch is now a rare spelling considered an alternate form of dispatch.

Difference Between Despatch and Dispatch

Dispatch and dispatch are acceptable spelling methods for the transitive verb meaning to send off to a destination for a purpose. Both can also function as a noun that means the act of sending someone somewhere for a specific purpose.

Use the spelling despatch for British texts and speech. And use the other spelling form dispatch for American spelling.

Dispatch and Despatch as Verbs

According to the largest dictionary, Merriam-Webster, dispatch means: 

  • To send away with quick efficiency.
  • To defeat.
  • To kill quickly.
  • To dispose of.

For example:

  • They dispatched an ambulance to the fire scene. 
  • Miguel was too scared to dispatch the matter.

However, the dictionary entry for the verb despatch considers it as an alternate spelling to dispatch. That means the dictionary regards the British spelling of the word as secondary, although the definitions for despatch and dispatch are the same.

Dispatch and Despatch as Nouns

As a noun, dispatch, and despatch mean:

  • The sending of something to a location for a purpose.
  • An official report on military or state affairs.
  • The killing of someone or something.

For example:

  • I sent a dispatch to headquarters.
  • Every week, dispatches from the war zone arrive. 

British dictionaries like the Cambridge Dictionary use the noun despatch. But this British variant spelling has the same meaning as the spelling dispatch. 

Dispatch Origin

The noun and verb dis·​patch comes from the Spanish word despachar and the Italian word dispacciare. These origins mean to send off with speed.

The Spanish despachar and Italian dispacciare replaced the alternate reflex depeach. Its first known use was in 1517 by Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall.

Dispatch or Despatch, Which is the Correct English Spelling?

The main difference between the despatch vs. dispatch is that one is spelled with i, and the other uses e. Both terms are acceptable, and neither has an inaccurate spelling. But some dictionaries like Macquarie have a preference for dispatch.

According to Macquarie Dictionary, the dis- spelling was the standard spelling for people. The difference in spelling originated in Dr. Samuel Johnson’s 1755 dictionary, which included the -des spelling. 

There’s a theory that despatch was just a typographical error since Dr. Johnson used dispatch in his writings. This situation sparked the debate on which version is the proper spelling. 

Some think that one is the noun form, while the other is a verb. But there is no such thing as despatch being the noun form of dispatch n grammar books. Even the Oxford English dictionary considers both words as a noun and verb.

Can We Use Dispatch for a Person?

Another noun that is a derivative of dispatch is dispatcher. Since the definition of dispatch as a verb is to send away, a dispatcher is someone who sends something to a destination. The American variation in spelling is more famous, but despatcher is just as accurate.

Some words related to dispatcher are:

  • Bearer.
  • Messenger. 
  • Courier.
  • Postman. 
  • Deliveryman.
  • Errand boy.
  • Sender.
  • Go-between.

Despatch Box

The phrase Despatch Box is a British term that refers to the UK and Australian Parliamentary, dating back to the 17th century. It’s a box for government business, such as sending sensitive documents securely. The red box was first used during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign. 

Many believe that the British English’s preference for despatch over dispatch comes from this phrase. But, there’s not enough actual evidence to prove the theory.

Examples of Dispatch in a Sentence

Although dispatch is generally preferred, some British publications occasionally pull out despatch for use as the noun meaning the act of sending—for example:

The technical fault that delayed the despatch of a government charter flight to Tripoli last night echoed the Foreign Office’s somewhat sluggish response. [Telegraph]

But the despatch by Maurice Parker, the US ambassador to Swaziland, was more direct. [Guardian]

But most publications (including the same British ones, most of the time) use dispatch for this sense as well as all others—for example:

Campaign surrogates for each of the candidates have been dispatched to the Sunday shows this week. [New York Times]

Israel views the dispatch of two Iranian warships to the Mediterranean with “gravity,” PM Benjamin Netanyahu said. [News.com.au]

Instead, when he needs information from the dispatch office at the police station a few miles away, he flips open the laptop mounted next to his steering wheel. [Anniston Star]

The report also said Iran was dispatching trucks overland via Iraq to Syria. [Independent]

I intended to effect my interview with the senator with maximum dispatch and return to the pork chop. [Brisbane Dispatch]

Phrases Containing Dispatch

  • Dispatch officers.
  • Audio dispatch.
  • Dispatch of supplies. 
  • Dispatch case.
  • Double dispatch.
  • The French Dispatch.

Statistics for Dispatch

Statistics show that dispatch has been more famous than despatch from the 1890s. Despatch peaked in usage and became more common than despatch in the 1860s. 

dispatch vs despatch

Synonyms for Dispatch

If you’re a dictionary user looking for synonyms for dispatch and despatch, here are some recommendations

Verb:

  • Mail.
  • Ship. 
  • Send.
  • Send off. 
  • Freight.
  • Forward.
  • Transmit.
  • Consign. 
  • Remit. 
  • Finish.
  • Sort out. 
  • Discharge.
  • Execute.
  • Perform. 
  • Conclude.
  • Settle. 
  • Expedite. 
  • Push through.
  • Accelerate.
  • Hasten. 

Noun:

  • Sending.
  • Mailing.
  • Consignment.
  • Posting.
  • Transmittal. 
  • Speed.
  • Expedition.
  • Swiftness.
  • Rapidity.
  • Quickness. 
  • Communication.
  • Release.
  • Account.
  • Statement.
  • Missive.
  • Letter.
  • Communique. 
  • Bulletin. 
  • Killing.
  • Slaughter.
  • Massacre.
  • Destruction.

Dispatch and Despatch are the Same

It isn’t true that dispatch and despatch have different meanings. It’s also not true that one is a noun while the other is a verb. Both despatch and dispatch can be nouns and verbs with the same meanings. 

Use the des- spelling for your British English text. And use the dis-spelling if you’re writing to an American audience. Learn about more heteronyms like permit and graduate to improve your writing skills.