A travelogue turned etymological musing on the difference between the two words.

July 23rd, 2021 — Miami

What is departure? At this moment I do not feel a sense of leaving but rather one of departure. As I depart from my home, the ocean side metropolis of Miami, Florida to reside in the personally unknown space of Albuquerque, New Mexico. My route from Miami to Albuquerque involves road riding along interstate highways. To assist in the passing of time upon my travel, I suppose I could try to answer the question: what is departure as opposed to leaving?

Readers of fantasy and science fiction will tell you that departure or leaving makes any fantasy story possible. The Lord of The Rings would not be an epic quest if Frodo Baggins stayed in the Shire; Star Wars would not be a space adventure if Luke Skywalker stayed on Tatooine, and Back To The Future would not have been a time-travel tale if Marty McFly stayed in the year 1985. After all, quests are not to be had in the comfort of your own home. So protagonists depart or leave from all they’ve ever known, and face the wider world. The world, and any adventure it holds is out there, and any journey must start with a departure or a leaving.

For Joseph Campbell, departure is about moving away from your life script, or how your life is supposed to play out. For this to happen, you need to be aware that your life as it is playing out isn’t something you necessarily want to live out. Still, it’s difficult to leave convention; departure needs courage. But it’s also a celebration of something new, of the start of a journey you want to or are willing to take.

So at least for today, departure and leaving are a start.


July 24th 2021 — Orlando

What is departure? Oxford defines departure as leaving a place, but all leaving is leaving a place — and, annoyingly, this definition fuses departure with leaving, without designating any special type of “leaving”. Meanwhile, Merriam Webster defines departure as “the act or instance of departing”. Then what is departing according to Merriam Webster? “To go away; leave”. All leaving is a going away, and again departure is fused with leaving because “leave” is used in the definition without designating any special form

Since the dictionary is unreliable in assisting in the endeavour to separate departure from leaving in order to differentiate these, a re-evaluation of “departure” and “leaving” must take place.


July 25th 2021 — Gainesville

What is departure? Apparently departure is leaving and leaving is departure. How did we end up with two words with identical meanings?

English is quite the confused mix of a language, pulling from several linguistic branches. English is mainly the consequence of the war between Germanic and Latin languages that came, which fought for dominance; one can still see signs of that conflict in English today.

Take the words being and entity as examples. They both mean the same thing, but entity comes from the Late Latin root word esse and the Latin French word entité, whereas the word being originates from the Germanic Old English word beōn.

This conflict between languages is not the only way English words came about: English never hesitated to absorb words from other languages in a more natural way. British explorers in India began to use the word jungle, a word whose etymological root can be found in Sanskrit (and is still used in languages like Hindi and Urdu). To take another example from Indian languages, the word catamaran comes from the Tamil phrase kaṭṭu maram which means, literally, ‘tied wood’. The etymological origin of the word “chocolate” can be found in the Aztec language of Nahuatl. And list goes on!

In the case of departure versus leaving, their battle is rooted in the battle between Germanic and Latin Languages. Departure is derived from the Latin Old French word departeure while leaving stems from the Germanic Old English word læfan (pronounced ˈlæːdɑn ) and the German bleiben.


July 26th, 2021 — Tallahassee

What is departure as opposed to leaving? The Old French word depateure holds the exact same meaning as departure. But surprisingly, the German word bleiben means to stay or remain, through historical circumstances bleiben became the etymological root for an antonym. But leave can imply remaining, for example as in the sense of allowing to remain or to leave alone.

This is contradictory: leaving means both “stay” and “go”, so when one leaves in the sense of going away must a part of them stay? Parts of me have felt like they are staying in Miami, especially the emotional parts: so much love, joy, and care are now oceanside.

Anyways, Læfan means to bequeath, such as how I bequeathed my copy of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations to my best friend; this understanding of leaving is also still in use, in the sense of to leave something behind to someone. Does leaving always need to be accompanied by leaving something behind for someone, and having a part of them stay? Departure does not ever imply leaving behind something for someone. Perhaps this is how departure can be distinguished from leaving.

This examination into etymology has only not assisted in differentiating departure from leaving but also explained why this redundancy between departure and leaving exists. We are where we are with these two words in their current state; we must press on and not turn back.


July 27th 2021 — New Orleans

What is departure? Departure is a planned going away from a place while leaving is an unplanned going away from a place. By departure being planned and leaving being unplanned, each is granted further secondary qualities that allow for greater distinguishing.

Departure plans; planning comes along with anticipation, hype, and calculation to name a few qualities. While leaving is given a suddenness, unexpectedness, or whim, to name some qualities. By being unplanned, leaving cannot possess calculation; departure cannot possess spontaneity because it is planned. Therefore departure and leaving retain similarity in that they are both acts of going away; however, the difference lies in how they go about their going away.

At least for today, I am satisfied with any answer I have come up with for what is departing as opposed to leaving. So I will be departing from this question. I really should spend at least a little time in the French Quarter while I’m here.


July 28th, 2021 — Addison

What is departure? Today’s departure is odd; it has felt so during the entirety of this road trip. Drifting in and out of places like a foreign breeze. Perhaps I need to embrace the custom of departure; embrace the temporary placelessness, the unsettledness. Settling and being placed are odd in their own right, it just does not feel odd out of habit.

I guess my pondering on what departure is as opposed to leaving is a utilitarian farce. But I have no reason not to keep going, I want to arrive somewhere and I am enjoying the journey. It does not matter if this journey is a farce; I want to be in Albuquerque and I want to come up with agreeable, exact, separate definitions for “departure” and “leaving”. Playing with abstraction and seeing where that playfulness takes you is enjoyable.

If I have not departed for enjoyment’s sake, then what have I departed for at all?


July 29th 2021 — Oklahoma City

What is departure as opposed to leaving? Departure versus leaving has nothing to do with distance or time traveled. However, departure feels more formal than leaving — perhaps that’s why airports use the term.

Departure has this sense of formality; of planning.

This is in contrast to our understanding of departure as going away without leaving anything behind, while leaving gives you time to bequeath something. Shouldn’t leaving the formal one, because bequeathing comes with convention?

Feeling alone does not invalidate these definitions, I don’t think anything can. However, I still feel that there is a sense of incompleteness. It has nothing to do with the feeling of formality but rather defining “departure” as going away without bequeathing and “leaving” as going away with bequeathing does not nor cannot account for what arrival is. I feel it necessary to account for arrival when discussing departure and leaving.

So, when has one arrived from a going away without bequeathing or when has one arrived from a leaving with bequeathing? Would arrival under the bequeathing definition of departure and leaving be based upon the intended destination?

Not all goings-away have an intended destination. The going away in and of itself would be the end of departure and leaving via the bequeathing definitions, keeping arrival out the equation. Yet, there is a strong association between leaving and arrival. Meanwhile there is an especially strong association between departure and arrival reinforced by the aforementioned airports. Departure or leaving without arrival simply is or feels incomplete.


What is departure? What is leaving? Colloquially the words “departure” and “leaving” are interchangeable. However, the distinction between “departure” as planned going away and “leaving” as unplanned going away would allow for exactness. For example, the reason airports could justify using the word “departure” as opposed to “leaving” is because it is typically rare for someone to get on a flight unplanned. Yet, I know shifts in language usage would have to occur for departure and leaving to be utilized as unplanned versus planned going away.

However, language shifts are not unheard of. The Oxford dictionary literally adopted figuratively as a definition of literally. Oxymoronic as this is, it showcases the dramatic shift in definitions words can go through.

Words are not mountains but shifting sands. Awful use to mean worthy of awe, but people used it so often that it took less and less significance, eventually coming to be used only in a sarcastic sense. This is not unusual:  silly used to mean blessed; nice once meant foolish, and  I could go on. But I would rather go on a walk through downtown.


July 30th, 2021 — Amarillo

What is departure as planned going away? What is leaving as unplanned going away? A question is also begged by this unplanned versus planned contrast. How much planning is needed in order for something to be “departure” as opposed to “leaving”? This would depend on personal subjective interpretations, but taking a literal approach to the redefining that has been laid out, any going away that has any level of planning would be “departure”.

If this understanding of departure versus leaving were to be adopted what would “arrival” be? I have spent too much time pondering for my own liking today; I will concern myself with this question tomorrow, when I arrive in Albuquerque. Now I am going to spray paint some cars at the Cadillac Ranch and get a cheap meal at the Westgate Mall’s food court.


July 31st 2021 — Albuquerque

The Sandias are a magnificent gateway into Albuquerque: never did I think shades of brown could be so splendid. What a way to be welcomed to a new home! This is an arrival.

What is “arrival”? Arrival is when a departure with an intended destination comes to fruition. Until a departure with an intended destination comes to its conclusion, one is unarrived.

Happily, I am in this state no longer: I have arrived.