Seeing this article about the daily commute in today's Telegraph reminded me that the English word 'commute' often doesn't have a direct one-word equivalent in other languages. The online wordreference.com multi-language dictionary needs a full sentence to explain it in French: to ~ between Oxford and London faire le trajet entre Oxford et Londres tous les jours (lit, to make the journey between Oxford and London every day); she ~s to Glasgow elle se rend à Glasgow tous les jours; there is a similar rendering in Italian: ~ between Oxford and London fare il pendolare tra Oxford e Londra; she ~s to Glasgow va a lavorare a Glasgow (tutti i giorni). There is also a long explanation in Spanish: commute - (verbo intransitivo) viajar todos los días (entre el lugar de residencia y el de trabajo) and Russian: commute v.i. (to work) ездить (indet.) каждый день на значительное расстояние на работу (lit: to travel a considerable distance every day to work). German, however, has the one-word verb pendeln.
Commute meaning 'to exchange' or 'to substitute' dates back to the 17th century. By the late 18th century it meant "To change (one kind of payment) into or for another; esp. to substitute a single payment for a number of payments" (OED). It became associated with travelling to work a century later. A commuter was originally someone who bought a 'commutation ticket'. That was originally a season ticket sold on US trains (several daily fares being 'commuted' to a single payment).