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[meyl-awr-der] /ˈmeɪlˌɔr dər/
pertaining to or obtained by mail order:
a dozen mail-order rosebushes.
verb (used with object)
to order (merchandise) by mail:
to mail-order fruitcakes for Christmas.
Origin of mail-order
First recorded in 1865-70

mail order

an order for goods received or shipped through the mail.
the business of selling merchandise through the mail.
An Americanism dating back to 1865-70 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for mail-order
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I've got to make my own clothes, or take a long chance on a mail-order house.

    Desert Conquest

    A. M. Chisholm
  • To-day the mail-order lists are crammed with commodities that are different.

    Post-Impressions Simeon Strunsky
  • A stormy day or a series of them always helps the mail-order business.

    Meteorology Charles Fitzhugh Talman
  • Where is the new strike leader—the mail-order strike leader?

    Windy McPherson's Son Sherwood Anderson
  • Most of this is spent by women, who are largely caught by the mail-order 175 trade.

    Carmen Ariza Charles Francis Stocking
British Dictionary definitions for mail-order

mail order

an order for merchandise sent by post
  1. a system of buying and selling merchandise through the post
  2. (as modifier): a mail-order firm
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for mail-order

1875, from mail (n.1) + order. Before television and the Internet, the bane of retailers and shop-owners.

The origin, foundation and principle of mail order trading is universally recognized as wrong. It was conceived in iniquity and brought forth in despair as the world's greatest destructive medium. Mail Order Trading was born in the brain of knaves and thieves who fired their building for insurance profits, then sold the salvaged and damaged stock to the unsuspecting sons of man in distant territory. [Thomas J. Sullivan, "Merchants and Manufacturers on Trial," Chicago, 1914]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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