early 14c., "to guide, aim, or direct," from Old French adrecier "go straight toward; straighten, set right; point, direct" (13c.), from Vulgar Latin *addirectiare "make straight" (source also of Spanish aderezar, Italian addirizzare), from ad "to" (see ad-) + *directiare "make straight," from Latin directus "straight, direct" past participle of dirigere "set straight," from dis- "apart" (see dis-) + regere "to direct, to guide, keep straight" (from PIE root *reg- "move in a straight line"). Compare dress (v.)).
The oldest sense in English is preserved in the terminology of golf (to address a ball). The meaning "direct for transmission, write as a destination on a message" is from mid-15c. The meaning "direct spoken words (to someone)" is from late 15c. From 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); it stuck in English. Related: Addressed; addressing.
1530s, "dutiful or courteous approach," from address (v.) and from French adresse (13c., from the verb in French). The meaning "power of directing one's actions and conduct" is from 1590s; that of "act or manner of speaking to" is from 1670s. The 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" (by c. 1816). The transferred use in computer programming is from 1948. Middle English had a noun addressing "control, correction" (late 14c.).
updated on September 14, 2022