early 14c., relēs, "abatement of distress; means of deliverance," from Old French relais, reles (12c.), a back-formation from relesser, relaissier "to relinquish, quit, let go, leave behind, abandon, acquit" (see release (v.)). In law, mid-14c., "transferring of property or a right to another;" late 14c. as "release from an obligation; remission of a duty, tribute, etc."
In archery, the meaning "act and manner of releasing" (a bow, etc.) is from 1871. The sense of "action of publication" is from 1907; as "a news item or official statement (to the press)" is by 1927. The meaning "action of making a film available to theaters" is from 1912, later of musical recordings, etc. The sense of "written authorization or permission for publication" is by 1965.
c. 1300, relēsen, "to withdraw, revoke (a decree, etc.), cancel, lift; remit," from Old French relaissier, relesser "to relinquish, quit, let go, leave behind, abandon, acquit," variant of relacher "release, relax," from Latin relaxare "loosen, stretch out" (from re- "back" (see re-) + laxare "loosen," from PIE root *sleg- "be slack, be languid"). Latin relaxare is the source also of Spanish relajar, Italian relassare, and English relax, and the uncle of relish.
Meaning "alleviate, ease" is mid-14c., as is sense of "set free from (duty, etc.); exonerate." From late 14c. as "grant remission, forgive; set free from imprisonment, military service, etc." Also "give up, relinquish, surrender." In law, c. 1400, "to grant a release of property." Of press reports, attested from 1904; of motion pictures from 1912; of music recordings from 1962. As a euphemism for "to dismiss, fire from a job" it is attested in American English since 1904. Related: Released; releasing.
"of the period before the date fixed for release," 1916, in reference to motion pictures, from pre- + release (n.). As a noun, "a film or record available on a limited basis before general release," by 1919. As a verb, "to release on a limited basis before the date fixed for release," by 1917 (implied in pre-released).
late 14c., relaxen, "to make (something) less compact or dense" (transitive), originally especially in medicine, of muscles, etc., from Old French relaschier "set free; soften; reduce" (14c.) and directly from Latin relaxare "relax, loosen, open, stretch out, widen again; make loose," from re- "back" (see re-) + laxare "loosen," from laxus "loose" (from PIE root *sleg- "be slack, be languid"). A doublet of release.
Meaning "decrease tension" is from early 15c. From 1660s as "to make less severe or rigorous." Intransitive sense of "become loose or languid" is by 1762; that of "become less tense" is recorded from 1935. Of persons, "to become less formal," by 1837. Related: Relaxed; relaxing. As a noun, "relaxation, an act of relaxing," from 17c.
late 15c., "to take a lease," from Anglo-French lesser (13c.), Old French laissier "to let, let go, let out, leave" "to let, allow, permit; bequeath, leave," from Latin laxare "loosen, open, make wide," from laxus "loose" (from PIE root *sleg- "be slack, be languid"). Medial -x- in Latin tends to become -ss- or -s- in French (compare cuisse from coxa). The Latin verb also is the source of Spanish laxar; Italian lasciare "leave," lassare "loosen."
Compare release (v.). Meaning "to grant the temporary possession of at a fixed rate" is from 1560s. Related: Leased; leasing. The form has been influenced by the noun, and the modern sense of "to take a lease" might be a new 19c. formation. Lessor, lessee in contract language preserve the Anglo-French vowel.
*slēg-, also *lēg-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "be slack, be languid."
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Greek legein "to leave off, stop," lagnein "to lust;" Latin languere "to be faint, weary," laxus "wide, spacious, roomy;" Old Church Slavonic slabu "lax, weak;" Lithuanian silpnas "weak."
"a foretaste," 1880, from preview (v.); specifically "a showing of a book, film, etc. before public release" by 1920.