• synonyms


  1. the collecting of stamps and other postal matter as a hobby or an investment.
  2. the study of postage stamps, revenue stamps, stamped envelopes, postmarks, postal cards, covers, and similar material relating to postal or fiscal history.
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Origin of philately

1860–65; < French philatélie < Greek phil- phil- + atéleia freedom from charges (taken to mean recipient's freedom from delivery charges by virtue of the stamp which sender affixed to the letter), literally, want of taxation, equivalent to a- a-6 + tél(os) tax + -eia -y3
Related formsphil·a·tel·ic [fil-uh-tel-ik] /ˌfɪl əˈtɛl ɪk/, phil·a·tel·i·cal, adjectivephil·a·tel·i·cal·ly, adverbphi·lat·e·list [fi-lat-l-ist] /fɪˈlæt l ɪst/, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for philatelic

Historical Examples

  • Reprints, for philatelic purposes, should be classed with forgeries.

    Peeps at Postage Stamps

    Stanley Currie Johnson

  • It will have a good financial backing, and it is expected to be one of the leading publications in the philatelic line.

  • It is with these two provinces that our philatelic story of Canada begins.

  • You see there are still worlds to conquer, in spite of all the inky battles that have been waged by philatelic writers.

  • Our own country has added to the philatelic "zoo" by placing a herd of cattle on one of the Trans-Mississippi issue.

British Dictionary definitions for philatelic


  1. the collection and study of postage stamps and all related material concerned with postal history
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Derived Formsphilatelic (ˌfɪləˈtɛlɪk), adjectivephilatelically, adverbphilatelist, noun

Word Origin

C19: from French philatélie, from philo- + Greek ateleia exemption from charges (here referring to stamps), from a- 1 + telos tax, payment
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 philatelic



"stamp-collecting," 1865, from French philatélie, coined by French stamp collector Georges Herpin (in "Le Collectionneur de Timbres-poste," Nov. 15, 1864), from Greek phil- "loving" (see philo-) + ateleia "exemption from tax," the closest word Herpin could find in ancient Greek to the concept of "postage stamp" (from a- "without" + telos "tax;" see toll (n.)). A reminder of the original function of postage stamps, now often forgotten: the cost of letter-carrying formerly was paid by the recipient; stamps indicated it had been pre-paid by the sender, thus the letters were "carriage-free."

It is a pity that for one of the most popular scientific pursuits one of the least popularly intelligible names should have been found. [Fowler]

Related: Philatelic; philatelism; philatelist.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper