Word of the Day

postage stamp


a stamp that is put on an envelope

Origin and usage

In 17th century London, Robert Murray and William Dockwra launched a mailing service called the London Penny Post. Letters and parcels were delivered for one penny with the payment confirmed by a hand-printed postage stamp that marked the item. The word ‘postage’, first noted in the 14th century, derives from the practice of posting a horse and rider at various intervals along a route so that mail could be delivered faster. By 1840 the first official postage stamp was available in Great Britain.


A postage stamp is a small square or rectangular piece of paper that has an adhesive back. They are purchased from a shop or post office then stuck onto a letter or parcel to show the required costs for delivery have been paid. The first adhesive postage stamp was the Penny Black, which was released in Great Britain in 1840 and featured a profile of Queen Victoria.

Since the time of the first postage stamp, collecting them has become a major hobby. Alongside its standard stamps, the Royal Mail releases around fifteen special booklets of collectable postage stamps every year. These feature images and quotes that commemorate an important event, mark a cultural achievement or celebrate an animal or bird. According to the Guinness World Records, the largest collection of postage stamps, as of 6 April 2013, belongs to George Vavvas, Ioannina, Greece. Vavvas’ collection features 7,215 postage stamps from 119 different countries.


“There’s nothing sadder to me than associations held together by nothing but the glue of a postage stamp.”

John Steinbeck

“Designs in connection with postage stamps and coinage may be described, I think, as the silent ambassadors on national taste.”

William Butler Yeats


postage, stamp

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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