phi·​lat·​e·​ly | \ fə-ˈla-tə-lē How to pronounce philately (audio) \

Definition of philately

: the collection and study of postage and imprinted stamps : stamp collecting

Other Words from philately

philatelic \ ˌfi-​lə-​ˈte-​lik How to pronounce philately (audio) \ adjective
philatelically \ ˌfi-​lə-​ˈte-​li-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce philately (audio) \ 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.

First Known Use of philately

circa 1865, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for philately

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

Learn More About philately

Time Traveler for philately

Time Traveler

The first known use of philately was circa 1865

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About philately

Dictionary Entries Near philately




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for philately

Cite this Entry

“Philately.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More from Merriam-Webster on philately

Nglish: Translation of philately for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about philately


Test Your Vocabulary

The Great British Vocabulary Quiz

  • union jack speech bubble
  • Named after Sir Robert Peel, what are British police called?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!