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In the Catholic liturgy at the dismissal, the Latin phrase used is "Ite, missa est." The usual translation for this is "Go, it is the dismissal."

My question is, what is the meaning of "Missa est" taken on its own? If you remove "Ite", does the meaning become simply "It is the dismissal"?

  • We had a very detailed (if somewhat ill-tempered) discussion of this issue in another forum. It is not easy to summarise the line of thought, so it might be better just to have a look at it: forum.wordreference.com/threads/missa.2529289 – fdb Dec 8 '18 at 9:33
  • Welcome to the site! This is an interesting question and has been asked before. Therefore we have marked it as duplicate of the earlier question so that all information on the matter is in one place. If you think the linked question doesn't quite give what you need, you can edit your question to elaborate what's different and we can reopen your question. I stress that having a question closed as duplicate is not a sign of bad quality or any such thing; it's just a matter of organizing information usefully. – Joonas Ilmavirta Dec 8 '18 at 9:43
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Good question! Literally, īte means "go, all of you", as a command or instruction. But missa est is less straightforward.

One explanation is that it's the perfect passive of mittō, meaning "it is dismissed" (with "it" implied to be the congregation). Another is that missa is a Late Latin form of Classical missiō "dismissal": missa est would then be "it is the dismissal". Some authors translate it as "mission" ("[go,] there is a mission"), but this is a later adaptation.

It's also possible that missa "dismissal" from spoken Vulgar Latin ended up being borrowed back into written Latin to mean "Mass": this phrase is where the noun "Mass" comes from in English, after all. In this case, missa est would mean "this is the Mass", saying that Mass has concluded. This version isn't mutually exclusive with the other one.

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  • That's an incredible answer. Thank you. From what I understand: "Mitta est" = it is the dismissal OR "Missa est" = this is the mass. So do you feel that either of those would be at least grammatically correct? – Dkett Dec 8 '18 at 2:00
  • @Dkett Sorry, that was a typo on my part: both should be missa, not mitta! Corrected now. But yes, both of those would be grammatically correct, especially in Church Latin (where everyone most likely knows the formula ite, missa est by heart). – Draconis Dec 8 '18 at 2:04
  • Perfect, thank you so much for the help and clarity. Excellent insight. – Dkett Dec 8 '18 at 11:19

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