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.

Origin of mail order

An Americanism dating back to 1865–70 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for mail-order


Examples from the Web for mail-order

Contemporary Examples of mail-order

Historical Examples of mail-order

  • 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.


    Simeon Strunsky

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


    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

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