Sometimes the dative has functions unrelated to giving. In Scottish Gaelic and Irish, the term dative case is used in traditional grammars to refer to the prepositional case-marking of nouns following simple prepositions and the definite article. In Georgian, the dative case also marks the subject of the sentence with some verbs and some tenses. This is called the dative construction.
The dative was common among early Indo-European languages and has survived to the present in the Balto-Slavic branch and the Germanic branch, among others. It also exists in similar forms in several non-Indo-European languages, such as the Uralic family of languages. In some languages, the dative case has assimilated the functions of other, now extinct cases. In Ancient Greek, the dative has the functions of the Proto-Indo-European locative and instrumental as well as those of the original dative.
Under the influence of English, which uses the preposition "to" for (among other uses) both indirect objects (give to) and directions of movement (go to), the term "dative" has sometimes been used to describe cases that in other languages would more appropriately be called lative.
"Dative" comes from Latin cāsus datīvus ("case for giving"), a translation of Greek δοτικὴ πτῶσις, dotikē ptôsis ("inflection for giving"), from its use with the verb didónai "to give". Dionysius Thrax in his Art of Grammar also refers to it as epistaltikḗ "for sending (a letter)", from the verb epistéllō "send to", a word from the same root as epistle.
The Old English language, which continued in use until after the Norman Conquest of 1066, had a dative case; however, the English case system gradually fell into disuse during the Middle English period, when the accusative and dative of pronouns merged into a single oblique case that was also used with all prepositions. This conflation of case in Middle and Modern English has led most modern grammarians to discard the "accusative" and "dative" labels as obsolete in reference to English, often using the term "objective" for oblique.
The dative case is rare in modern English usage, but it can be argued that it survives in a few set expressions. One example is the word "methinks", with the meaning "it seems to me". It survives in this fixed form from Old English (having undergone, however, phonetic changes with the rest of the language), in which it was constructed as "" + "me" (the dative case of the personal pronoun) + "thinks" (i.e., "seems", < Old English þyncan, "to seem", a verb closely related to the verb þencan, "to think", but distinct from it in Old English; later it merged with "think" and lost this meaning).
The modern objective case pronoun whom is derived from the dative case in Old English, specifically the Old English dative pronoun "hwām" (as opposed to the modern subjective "who", which descends from Old English "hwā") — though "whom" also absorbed the functions of the Old English accusative pronoun "hwone". It is also cognate to the word "wem" (the dative form of "wer") in German. The OED defines all classical uses of the word "whom" in situations where the indirect object is not known[clarification needed] – in effect, indicating the anonymity of the indirect object.