mid-15c., "to change (something into something else), transform," from Latin commutare "to often change, to change altogether," from com-, here perhaps an intensive prefix (see com-), + mutare "to change" (from PIE root *mei- (1) "to change, go, move").
Sense of "make less severe" is from 1630s; sense of "exchange, put in place of another" is from 1630s. Meaning "substitute one sort of burden for another" is from 1640s.
Meaning "go back and forth to work" is attested by 1889, from commutation ticket "a season pass" on a railroad, streetcar line, etc. (1848), from commute in its sense of "to change one kind of payment into another" (1795), especially "to combine a number of payments into a single one, pay a single sum instead of a number of successive payments" (1845). Related: Commuted; commuting; commutable.
The noun meaning "a journey made in commuting" is attested by 1960. Also compare commuter.
1839, "apparatus for reversing the currents from a battery without rearranging the conductors," agent noun from Latin commutare (see commute (v.)). From 1880 as "contrivance for varying the strength of an electric current."
"relating to exchange, interchangeable, mutual," 1530s, from Medieval Latin commutativus, from Latin commutat-, past participle stem of commutare (see commute (v.)). Commutative justice regulates interactions between two persons. Related: Commutatively.
mid-15c., commutacioun, "act of giving one thing for another," from Old French commutacion "change, transformation, exchange, barter" (13c., Modern French commutation), from Latin commutationem (nominative commutatio) "a change, alteration," noun of action from past participle stem of commutare "to change, alter entirely" (see commute (v.)).
From c. 1500 as "a passage from one state to another;" 1590s as "act of substituting one thing for another."
"one who goes back and forth to work," 1865, American English, originally "holder of a commutation ticket," agent noun from commute (v.).
A commutation ticket (1848) was a ticket issued (by a railroad, etc.) at a reduced rate entitling the holder to travel over a given route a limited number of times or an unlimited number of times over a certain period. It is from commute in its sense of "to change one kind of payment into another" (1795), especially "to combine a number of payments into a single one, pay a single sum instead of a number of successive payments" (1845).
It forms all or part of: amiss; amoeba; azimuth; common; commune; communicate; communication; communism; commute; congee; demean; emigrate; emigration; excommunicate; excommunication; immune; immutable; incommunicado; mad; mean (adj.1) "low-quality;" mew (n.2) "cage;" mews; migrate; migration; mis- (1) "bad, wrong;" mistake; Mithras; molt; Mstislav; municipal; munificent; mutable; mutant; mutate; mutation; mutatis mutandis; mutual; permeable; permeate; permutation; permute; remunerate; remuneration; transmutation; transmute; zenith.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit methati "changes, alternates, joins, meets;" Avestan mitho "perverted, false;" Hittite mutai- "be changed into;" Latin mutare "to change," meare "to go, pass," migrare "to move from one place to another," mutuus "done in exchange;" Old Church Slavonic mite "alternately;" Czech mijim "to go by, pass by," Polish mijać "avoid;" Gothic maidjan "to change."