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The matter with “issue”

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 16 November 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:1059
  1. Jeff Aronson, clinical pharmacologist, Oxford (

The word issue comes from the Latin word exitus (Italian uscita, French issue), from the supine form exitum of the verb exire, literally “to go out.” Even in Latin, exire and exitus had several meanings; in English, issue has too many.

There are three forms—the substantive (noun), verb transitive, and verb intransitive. We can deal summarily with the verb forms. To issue [something] means to send it out—an edict, stamp, coin, banknote, report, threat, ultimatum; other meanings are obsolete or rare and all reflect the primary meaning. This form has also spawned an indirect passive form (BMJ 2002;325:387), to be issued with [something]—at one time much reviled but now an accepted part of the language. To issue [intransitive] means to go …

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