Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Mike from Cadillac asked how a phrase such as post-911 is related to a fence post, an army post, and so on. The post- in hyphenated words or in words such as postmortem or postscript comes from a Latin preposition that means after or later in time. That’s the easy part. There are 12 nouns spelled p-o-s-t and 6 verbs, many with their own subdivisions. We might as well run through the noun meanings one by one.

post1  [L. postis, stake or pole]
  • a support or column of timber
  • a boundary marker or support for a fence
  • a stake representing stupidity or unresponsiveness
  • a record of an account or score
  • a vertical mass of stratified rock between two joints or fissures
  • fine-grained sandstone or limestone
  • Basketball: an offensive position near the free-throw lane occupied by the player (or players) coordinating the team's attacks; the area of the court broadly corresponding to this position, extending from the baseline to the free-throw line
post2  [special use of L. post-]
  • a writ of entry
post3  [L. posta, a stopping station]
  • any of a series of men who rode from stage to stage with letters or dispatches
  • a postman or postwoman
  • a vehicle or vessel used to carry letters
  • any of a series of stations
  • the official postal service
  • a single collection or delivery of mail
  • postage charge
  • a message displayed on an online forum
post4  [It. posta, a stake in a game]
  • a card game
post5  [It. posto, specific place assigned to a person]
  • a position of paid appointment
  • the place where a soldier is assigned when on duty; the beat patrolled by a sentry
  • a place of duty
  • a place where a body of soldiers is stationed
  • a fort or garrison
  • commission as a naval officer
post6  [Urdu post, poppy head]
  • an intoxicating beverage made by steeping poppy heads in warm water
post7  [It. posta, account entry]
  • an act of posting or an entry in a ledger
post8  [Ger. post, specified quantity of goods]
  • a pile of handmade paper with sheets of felt interspersed, ready for pressing
  • a batch of ore for smelting
post9  [short for post entry]

post10  [special use of post5]
  • a bugle call signaling bedtime
post11  [a shortened version of postgraduate]

post12  [a shortened version of postmortem, an autopsy]

Once again, the lesson is clear: just because words with different meanings share an identical letter sequence, their spelling does not necessarily mean that they come from the same source.

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition
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