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Word of the Week: ‘post’


We take a closer look at the words and phrases that are trending online and in the media. This week: ‘post’.

Today is World Post Day. To mark the occasion, as well as high-fiving our own E1 ‘postie’ of course, we’re delving into the meaning of the term ‘post’ in honour of our long-term client Royal Mail.

What does ‘post’ mean?

The Cambridge Dictionary leads with the noun form and British understanding of ‘post’: “letters etc that are delivered to homes or places of work”. This will translate as ‘mail’ for any of our transatlantic readers. 

The word can also be defined as “the particular place where someone works, especially a soldier”. Then there’s the very thing you are viewing right now: “A message or picture that you publish on a website or on social media”. Meta, huh.

In one of the more straightforward senses the term is defined as: “a vertical pole stuck in the ground, usually to support something or mark a position”. 

And then we have the use of ‘post’ as a prefix. Used to indicate an event that comes after something. Familiar maxims include ‘postmodern’, ‘post-apocalyptic’, ‘post-truth’ ‘post-drinks’ – you know, that bad idea after a night out on a Friday.

The word crops up in everyday language too, with idoms like ‘I’ll keep you posted’ (meaning keeping someone updated on the progress of something), the name of the UK’s political voting system (first past the post) and Speak Towers staple: the post-it.

What is the etymology of ‘post’?

The word ‘post’ – as in a pillar or doorpost – harks back to the Latin ‘postis’. The military sense of the word (“one’s position”) however derives from the Latin ‘positum’ meaning to “place or put”.

Our understanding of “sending through the postal system” did not appear until 1837, when prior to this the word meant: “riders and horses posted at intervals”. Posties back in the day were situated at intervals along a route to deliver mail by horse in relays.

The word was also once used to describe “travelling with haste”, or “going posthaste” – an archaic term that originally related to post riders. So, without further ado, we hope that on World Post Day that cheeky ASOS order arrives at the door ‘posthaste’…

Roisin McCormack