From the second edition (1989):
launch, n.1
(lɔːnʃ, formerly lɑːnʃ) [f. launch v.]


1. The action or an act of lancing; a prick. Obs.

1558 Traheron in S. R. Maitland Ess. Reform. (1849) 80 If I shal perceaue that it shalbe to your welth, I wil not sticke to giue you a launch or two. 1596 Spenser Hymn Heavenly Love 162 What hart can feele least touch of so sore launch?


2. The action or an act of launching, shooting forth, or springing. Obs. exc. dial.

c1440 Promp. Parv. 290/2 Lawnche, or skyppe, saltus. a1825 Forby Voc. E. Anglia, Launch, a long stride. 1897 W. C. Russell Last Entry 241 The schooner‥swept in long floating launches down upon the boat.


3. concr. Shoots of a plant. Also fig. Obs.

a1400 Pistill of Susan (Ingilby MS.) 109 Þe lyly, þe louage, þe launches so lefe. c1430 Hymns Virg. 3 Veni de libano, þou loueli in launche.


4. a. The action or process of launching a vessel. Also fig. and transf., and with out. b. The starting off of a bird in flight.

1749 J. Cleland Mem. Woman Pleasure I. 18, I soon came to a resolution of making this launch into the wide world, by repairing to London. 1814 Scott Let. to Southey 17 June in Lockhart, The first time I happened to see a launch. 1835–6 Todd Cycl. Anat. I. 298/1 The first launch of the bird into the air is produced by an ordinary leap from the ground. 1857 Trans. Mich. Agric. Soc. VIII. 193, I have seen the commencement of railways, and witnessed the ‘launch’ of the first locomotive. 1879 J. Martineau Ess. (1891) IV. 271 Its daring launch-out on the ocean of real being. 1879 Cassell's Techn. Educ. IV. 223/2 Bearing surfaces should be well greased‥before the launch takes place. 1969 J. Argenti Managem. Techniques v. 25 Anxiety that the launch date [of a product] will be missed. 1969 Punch 15 Jan. 96/2 The Ford Capri, a sort of shrunken Mustang, is being built in Britain and Germany and will be launched later this month. But, of course, ‘the launch’, as the trade calls it, is not as simple as that. 1971 Sunday Express (Johannesburg) 28 Mar. 5/1 Mr. Uys‥vetoed the display of the same model's nipple when the launch advertisement was submitted.


c. The launching of a missile, spacecraft, glider, or the like. (See also sense 7 below.)

1935 C. H. Latimer-Needham Gliding & Soaring x. 170 The wind velocity should be ascertained and allowed for in any method of mechanical launching or too vigorous a launch may be given unwittingly. 1952 F. Geen A.B.C. of Gliding 95 The easiest launch is a full-height nose launch. 1963 Ann. Reg. 1962 397 The closely matched orbits of the two astronauts also required precise timing of their launches. 1966 Economist 18 June 1307/1 The first of three such launches which are to put a chain of 24 defence communications satellites in synchronous orbit round the earth. 1969 Observer 20 July 9/8 The astronauts‥sleep or doze for nearly five hours before preparing for the launch.


5. concr. in Ship-building. (See quot. 1850.)

1711 W. Sutherland Shipbuild. Assist. 23 Erecting a Ship on the Launch, and launching her from thence. 1712 Lond. Gaz. No. 5019/5 Wherein are two large Launches and a large dry Dock. c1850 Rudim. Navig. (Weale) 128 Launch, the slip or descent whereon the ship is built, including the whole of the machinery used in launching.


6. dial. A trap for taking eels.

1847 in Halliwell.


7. attrib. and Comb. as (sense 4c) launch crew, launch date, launch site, launch vehicle; launch-block, launch-ways (Cent. Dict.) = launching-ways, launching-planks; launch pad = launching pad; launch window, a period outside which the planned launch of a spacecraft cannot take place if the journey is to be completed, owing to the changing positions of the planets.

1720 De Foe Capt. Singleton iii. (1840) 50 A launch-block and cradles. 1962 J. Glenn in Into Orbit 6 The most junior member of the launch crew. 1969 Daily Mail 15 Jan. 5/3 Then suddenly it was now—launch date just around the corner. 1960 News Chron. 29 Sept. 9/6 The 100-foot rocket sat immobile on its launch-pad. 1968 Times 23 Dec. 6/3 Captain Lovell and Major Anders‥climbed into a van which took them to the launch pad. 1969 Times 3 June Suppl. p. iii/1 The world's largest tracked vehicle, ‘the crawler’,‥carried‥Saturn 5‥from its lofty assembly building to launchpad 39A. 1969 Listener 20 Feb. 233/2 When you fly over the Soviet Union, can you see their launch sites? 1965 New Scientist 18 Mar. 701/1 The Gemini spacecraft, launch vehicle and target vehicle are all derived from hardware and technology already in existence. 1966 Sci. Amer. Jan. 54 Because of various failures in the launch-vehicle guidance system‥a lunar landing was not accomplished. 1965 Newsweek 29 Nov. 40/3 It is thought they may even try a third shot before the launch window closes in December. 1966 Sci. News Let. 3 Sept. 165 The 20-day period centered around the launch date allowing travel between planets on an orbit requiring the least amount of energy. This is the so-called ‘launch window’ used to hurl space vehicles from earth to the moon. 1968 Radio Times 19 Dec. 41/4 As to timing, they must choose a launch window several days long when the Moon is in the right position relative to the Earth, when the sun is in the right position relative to the lunar landing sites, and when Apollo 8 can return to a suitable landing on Earth.