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Origin of posh1
Words nearby posh
Definition for posh (2 of 2)
Origin of posh2
What else does posh mean?
The adjective posh means that something or someone is rich, fancy, or otherwise smells of money.
Where does posh come from?
You might have heard of posh from the 1990s superstar Posh Spice of the Spice Girls, but the word posh is actually way older than that.
Posh, as slang for “money,” first appears in English in the 18th century as a variant of push. Back in the 15th century, the Romani people arrived from India to the United Kingdom. The Romany also adopted English words and customs, like the currency of half-shillings, half-pennies, and so on. The word for half in Romany is posh, and its relation to cash gave it the connotation of money.
From there, so this explanation goes, posh became thieves’ slang for money in the London underworld in the early 19th century. One early instance of posh to mean “money” comes from oral testimony in criminal proceedings in London’s Central Criminal Court in 1830. It was not a term yet used by the upper class as it would later come to describe.
Posh, as “money,” may have led to posh as “fancy,” though this etymology is uncertain. One of the earliest printed examples of posh to mean “fancy” comes from P.G. Wodehouse’s Tales of St. Austin’s (1903) where a spiffy waistcoat is described as “quite the most push thing of the sort of Cambridge,” with posh apparently intended for push.
Posh as “fancy” was popularized by the Royal Armed Forces during World War I. It inspired countless derivations, such as posh up to mean “to make something fancier,” all poshed up to mean “dressed up,” and do the posh to mean “to spend lavishly”.
According to folk etymology, posh is an acronym for Port Out, Starboard Home. This myth from the 1930s says that rich people booking steamer trips staying in the nicer, round-trip cabins would have P.O.S.H. stamped on their tickets. After decades of searching, there’s never been any evidence such a practice ever existed.
In the 1950s, posh took on the meaning of “trifling nonsense,” a combination of piffle and tosh, both words that mean “nonsense.” It also appears in the variation on the Cockney pish–tosh as pish–posh, also meaning “nonsense.”
In the 1990s, posh became slang for “cocaine,” apparently due to its associations with rich partiers.
How is posh used in real life?
Posh is most commonly used today as an informal adjective to describe a person, place, or thing as classy, fancy, or spiffy (e.g., a posh restaurant). The word has a strong upper-class connotation, related to having or spending money. Calling something posh is still closely associated with the UK.
Chart guru Peter Loraine from the UK TV show Top of the Pops came up with the nickname Posh Spice for Victoria Beckham for a July 1996 magazine story. He once explained: “Posh was the first one to be thought up because Victoria looks pretty sophisticated.”
In 2011, the multi-level marketing company Perfectly Posh was launched to direct-sell makeup. You might see a friend who’s been suckered in post memes about how excited they are about their “Posh products.”
More examples of posh:
“Residents in a road where a spike-topped wall once divided rich and poor have slammed a decision to lay new Tarmac only at the “posh” end of the street.”
—BBC News, September, 2018
This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.
Example sentences from the Web for posh
Over the past few days, photos have trickled out showing the happy couple and their guests zipping around Venice on posh boats.
Despite the profusion of products, the star—as the U.N. clearly knows—will always be Posh herself.
Her father built a successful business and the family lives in an $800,000 sandstone house in a posh Glasgow suburb.
Earlier this month a brand new art museum opened in the posh mountain resort town of Aspen, Colorado.
Bogie and Bacall purchased a $160,000 mansion in Holmby Hills, a posh enclave in Los Angeles, and played house.
On one occasion when he was walking with Posh on the pier some stranger hazarded a casual word or two p. 36to the fisherman.
From the first there was a difficulty in persuading Posh to keep any accounts of either outgoings or incomings.
We drew up at the door of a palatial establishment—the "posh" hotel of Los Angeles.Across America by Motor-cycle|C. K. Shepherd
Dr. Aldis Wright was under the impression that the portrait was never finished; but Posh is very certain about it.
But Posh could never regard the “mild bare,” the “twopenny” of the district, as an enemy.