Will's word

7th October 2005 at 01:00
(noun) act of receiving; written acknowledgement

for goods or money; (plural) moneys received

When the word arrived in the 14th century from French, it meant a prescribed set of ingredients, in medicine or cookery - a "prescription" or "recipe".

Other meanings quickly followed, but the chief modern sense, as in "She gave me a receipt", was only coming into the language in Shakespeare's time, and he never uses it in this way.

Rather the word is used in four other ways: first, in the general sense of "reception": what the belly takes in is called its "receipt" in Coriolanus (I.i.110). Second, is the sense of a "receiving venue", as when Blackfriars is called a place for "receipt of learning" in Henry VIII (II.ii.137).

Third, is the sense of "money received", as when Mowbray talks about the "receipt I had for Calais" (in Richard II, I.i.126); fourth, in the sense of recipe or prescription.

Helena tells the sick king of her father's medical knowledge: "Many receipts he gave me" (All's Well that Ends Well, II.i.105 ).

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