phi·​lat·​e·​ly fə-ˈla-tə-lē How to pronounce philately (audio)
: the collection and study of postage and imprinted stamps : stamp collecting
philatelic adjective
philatelically adverb

Did you know?

Who wouldn't love something tax free? George Herpin did. He was a French stamp fancier back in the 1860s, when stamps were a fairly new invention. Before stamps, the recipient of a letter—not the sender—had to pay the postage. Stamps forced the sender to foot the bill, and created a lot of stamp lovers among folks on the receiving end of the mail—and a mania for stamp collecting. Timbromania was toyed with as a term to affix to this new hobby—from the French word for stamp, timbre. But when Herpin suggested philatélie (anglicized to philately), combining the Greek root phil-, meaning "loving," with Greek ateleia, meaning "tax-exemption," stamp lovers everywhere took a fancy to it and the name stuck.

Word History


French philatélie, from phil- + Greek ateleia tax exemption, from atelēs free from tax, from a- + telos tax; perhaps akin to Greek tlēnai to bear; from the fact that a stamped letter frees the recipient from paying the mailing charges — more at tolerate

First Known Use

circa 1865, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of philately was circa 1865


Dictionary Entries Near philately

Cite this Entry

“Philately.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


phi·​lat·​e·​ly fə-ˈlat-ᵊl-ē How to pronounce philately (audio)
: the collection and study of postage stamps
philatelic adjective

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