1530s, "dutiful or courteous approach," from address (v.) and from French adresse (13c., from the verb in French). Meaning "power of directing one's actions and conduct" is from 1590s. Meaning "act or manner of speaking to" is from 1670s. Sense of "formal speech to an audience" (Gettysburg Address, etc.) is from 1751. Sense of "superscription of a letter" (guiding it to its destination) is from 1712 and led to the meaning "place of residence" (from c. 1816). Transferred use in computer programming is from 1948. Middle English had a noun addressing "control, correction" (late 14c.).
Oldest sense in English is preserved in golf (to address a ball). Meaning "direct for transmission, write as a destination on a message" is from mid-15c. Meaning "to direct spoken words (to someone)" is from late 15c. Late 14c. as "to set in order, repair, correct." The attempt (falsely) re-Latinize the spelling to add- began in France 15c. but failed there (the Modern French verb is adresser), however it stuck in English. Related: Addressed; addressing.
A self-addressed envelope is one on which is written or printed the writer's address. A letter in which the writer asks for a reply for his own exclusive benefit should enclose a self-addressed envelope. ["Smithdeal's Practical Grammar, Speller and Letter-writer," 1894]
late 14c., directen, "to write or address (a letter, words)" to someone, also "to point or make known a course to," from Latin directus past participle of dirigere "set straight, arrange; give a particular direction to, send in a straight line; guide" a thing, either to something or according to something, from dis- "apart" (see dis-) + regere "to direct, to guide, keep straight" (from PIE root *reg- "move in a straight line"). Compare dress; address.
Sense of "to point or aim in a straight line toward a place or an object" is from c. 1400. Meaning "to govern, regulate as to behavior, prescribe the course or actions of" is from early 15c. Sense of "to order, ordain" is from 1650s. Sense of "to write the destination on the outside of a letter" had emerged by 17c. In reference to plays, films, etc., "to supervise and control the making of," it is attested from 1913. Related: Directed; directing.
word-forming element expressing direction toward or in addition to, from Latin ad "to, toward" in space or time; "with regard to, in relation to," as a prefix, sometimes merely emphatic, from PIE root *ad- "to, near, at."
Simplified to a- before sc-, sp- and st-; modified to ac- before many consonants and then re-spelled af-, ag-, al-, etc., in conformity with the following consonant (as in affection, aggression). Also compare ap- (1).
In Old French, reduced to a- in all cases (an evolution already underway in Merovingian Latin), but written forms in French were refashioned after Latin in 14c. and English did likewise 15c. in words it had picked up from Old French. In many cases pronunciation followed the shift. Over-correction at the end of the Middle Ages in French and then English "restored" the -d- or a doubled consonant to some words that never had it (accursed, afford). The process went further in England than in France, where the vernacular sometimes resisted the pedantic, resulting in English adjourn, advance, address, advertisement (Modern French ajourner, avancer, adresser, avertissement). In modern word-formation sometimes ad- and ab- are regarded as opposites, but this was not in classical Latin.
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "move in a straight line," with derivatives meaning "to direct in a straight line," thus "to lead, rule."
It forms all or part of: abrogate; address; adroit; Alaric; alert; anorectic; anorexia; arrogant; arrogate; bishopric; correct; corvee; derecho; derogate; derogatory; Dietrich; direct; dress; eldritch; erect; ergo; Eric; Frederick; Henry; incorrigible; interregnum; interrogate; maharajah; Maratha; prerogative; prorogue; rack (n.1) "frame with bars;" rail (n.1) "horizontal bar passing from one post or support to another;" Raj; rajah; rake (n.1) "toothed tool for drawing or scraping things together;" rake (n.2) "debauchee; idle, dissolute person;" rakish; rank (adj.) "corrupt, loathsome, foul;" real (n.) "small Spanish silver coin;" realm; reck; reckless; reckon; rectangle; rectify; rectilinear; rectitude; recto; recto-; rector; rectum; regal; regent; regicide; regime; regimen; regiment; region; regular; regulate; Regulus; Reich; reign; resurgent; rex; rich; right; Risorgimento; rogation; royal; rule; sord; source; subrogate; subrogation; surge; surrogate; viceroy.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by:
Sanskrit raj- "a king, a leader," rjyati "he stretches himself," riag "torture" (by racking); Avestan razeyeiti "directs," raštva- "directed, arranged, straight;" Persian rahst "right, correct;" Latin regere "to rule, direct, lead, govern," rex (genitive regis) "king," rectus "right, correct;" Greek oregein "to reach, extend;" Old Irish ri, Gaelic righ "a king," Gaulish -rix "a king" (in personal names, such as Vircingetorix), Old Irish rigim "to stretch out;" Gothic reiks "a leader," raihts "straight, right;" Lithuanian raižytis "to stretch oneself;" Old English rice "kingdom," -ric "king," rice "rich, powerful," riht "correct;" Gothic raihts, Old High German recht, Old Swedish reht, Old Norse rettr "correct."