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  1. letters, packages, etc., that are sent or delivered by means of the postal system: Storms delayed delivery of the mail.
  2. a single collection of such letters, packages, etc., as sent or delivered: to open one's mail; to find a bill in the mail; The mail for England was put on the noon plane.
  3. Also mails. the system, usually operated or supervised by the national government, for sending or delivering letters, packages, etc.; postal system: to buy clothes by mail.
  4. a train, boat, etc., as a carrier of postal matter.
  5. electronic mail; email.
  1. of or relating to mail.
verb (used with object)
  1. to send by mail; place in a post office or mailbox for transmission.
  2. to transmit by email.
  1. copy the mail, Citizens Band Radio Slang. to monitor or listen to a CB transmission.

Origin of mail1

1175–1225; Middle English male (noun) < Old French malle < Germanic; compare Old High German mal(a)ha satchel, bag
Can be confusedmail male


  1. flexible armor of interlinked rings.
  2. any flexible armor or covering, as one having a protective exterior of scales or small plates.
  3. Textiles. an oval piece of metal pierced with a hole through which the warp ends are threaded, serving as an eyelet on a heddle or especially on the harness cords of a Jacquard loom.
verb (used with object)
  1. to clothe or arm with mail.

Origin of mail2

1250–1300; Middle English maille one of the rings of which armor was composed < Old French < Latin macula spot, one of the interstices in a net; cf. macula
Related formsmail·less, adjective


or maill

noun Scot.
  1. monetary payment or tribute, especially rent or tax.

Origin of mail3

before 1150; Middle English (north) mal(e), late Old English māl agreement < Old Norse māl agreement, speech, cognate with Old English mǣl speech
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for mail

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Historical Examples

British Dictionary definitions for mail


  1. Also called (esp Brit): post letters, packages, etc, that are transported and delivered by the post office
  2. the postal system
  3. a single collection or delivery of mail
  4. a train, ship, or aircraft that carries mail
  5. short for electronic mail
  6. (modifier) of, involving, or used to convey maila mail train
verb (tr)
  1. mainly US and Canadian to send by mailUsual Brit word: post
  2. to contact (a person) by electronic mail
  3. to send (a message, document, etc) by electronic mail
Derived Formsmailable, adjectivemailability, noun

Word Origin

C13: from Old French male bag, probably from Old High German malha wallet


  1. a type of flexible armour consisting of riveted metal rings or links
  2. the hard protective shell of such animals as the turtle and lobster
  1. (tr) to clothe or arm with mail
Derived Formsmail-less, adjective

Word Origin

C14: from Old French maille mesh, from Latin macula spot


  1. archaic, mainly Scot a monetary payment, esp of rent or taxes

Word Origin

Old English māl terms, from Old Norse māl agreement


  1. Australian informal a rumour or report, esp a racing tip
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

Word Origin and History for mail


"post, letters," c.1200, "a traveling bag," from Old French male "wallet, bag, bundle," from Frankish *malha or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *malho- (cf. Old High German malaha "wallet, bag," Middle Dutch male "bag"), from PIE *molko- "skin, bag." Sense extension to "letters and parcels" (18c.) is via "bag full of letter" (1650s) or "person or vehicle who carries postal matter" (1650s). In 19c. England, mail was letters going abroad, while home dispatches were post. Sense of "personal batch of letters" is from 1844, originally American English.


"metal ring armor," c.1300, from Old French maille "link of mail, mesh of net," from Latin macula "mesh in a net," originally "spot, blemish," on notion that the gaps in a net or mesh looked like spots.


"send by post," 1828, American English, from mail (n.1). Related: Mailed; mailing; mailable. Mailing list attested from 1876.


"rent, payment," from Old English mal (see blackmail (n.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper