Word of the Day



pens, paper, envelopes, pencils, and other things used for writing

Origin and usage

Though the first recorded version of stationery comes from 1727, it is thought to have come into use in the mid-1600s. It derives from the word ‘stationer’, meaning a seller of books and paper – the products that would come to be known simply as stationery. The origin of the word stationery lies in the Middle English and Anglo-Norman ‘estacioun’ and ‘estation’ meaning a post or position.


Stationery refers to mass-produced materials used in writing, such as envelopes, paper, items like pens and pencils and other office materials. While stationery once referred exclusively to handwritten products, it has expanded to include devices such as printers with the dawn of the technological age.

While stationery generally became more popular as literacy rates rose, much of its increase in use came from the fact that it was seen as a symbol of correct etiquette and social status. Particularly in the Victorian era, stationery came to be associated with upper-class decorum. With the rise of the digital age, stationery has become somewhat overshadowed, but the traditions of handwritten formalities persist in some forms despite the ease and low cost of the many alternatives offered by technological advance. For example, ‘thank you’ cards are still commonly written by hand, and some other stationery products, such as wedding invitations, are still produced with a combination of machine and handwritten contributions.


“There was something very comfortable in having plenty of stationery.”

(Charles Dickens)

“I even enjoy the mechanics of writing, the dull timpani of the typewriter keys, the making of notes – many notes – and most seductive of all: the buying of stationery.”

(Will Self)


paper, folio, parchment, letterhead

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

About the author

Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary is an award-winning, one-stop reference for English learners and speakers around the world.

Leave a Comment