posthumous

adjective

post·​hu·​mous ˈpäs-chə-məs How to pronounce posthumous (audio)
 also  -tə-,
-tyə-,
-thə-;
päst-ˈhyü-məs,
ˈpōst-,
-ˈyü- How to pronounce posthumous (audio)
1
: born after the death of the father
2
: published after the death of the author
3
: following or occurring after death
posthumous fame
posthumousness noun

Did you know?

The etymology of the word posthumous tells a complex story. In Latin, posterus is an adjective meaning "coming after" (from post, meaning "after"). The comparative form of posterus is posterior, and its superlative form is postumus, which means, among other things, "last." Postumus had specific application in referring to the last of a man's children, which in some cases meant those born after he had died. Latin speakers incorrectly identified the -umus in this word with humus, meaning "dirt" or "earth" (suggesting the ground in which the unfortunate father now lay). The Latin spelling became posthumus, as if the word were formed from post and humus, and both the "h" and the suggestion of "after burial" or "after death" carried over into English.

Did you know?

Where does posthumous come from?

Readers who are looking for the origins of the word posthumous may be interested to know that it is an example of a folk etymology. A folk etymology involves the respelling or changing of an unfamiliar word (often one borrowed from another language) to make it resemble an unrelated but better-known word or words. The classic example in English is cockroach, which was formed by substituting the English words cock (the name of a bird) and roach (the name of a fish) for the similar-sounding but totally unrelated Spanish word for a bug, cucaracha.
Posthumous comes from the Latin posthumus, which is itself an alteration of postumus ("born after the father's death"). It is thought that the word humus (meaning "dirt, earth" in Latin) was substituted for -umus in the mistaken belief that the word's final element had something to do with the soil in a grave.

Example Sentences

She received a posthumous award for her life of philanthropy. the soldier was awarded a posthumous medal for valor
Recent Examples on the Web David Bowie could score another posthumous hit, this time with the original soundtrack to the Brett Morgan-helmed documentary film, Moonage Daydream (via Parlophone). Lars Brandle, Billboard, 22 Nov. 2022 Some social media users are implying that DeLuca's posthumous victory is evidence of voter fraud. Chris Mueller, USA TODAY, 19 Nov. 2022 Mugler worked closely with the curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot to bring the exhibition to life, but this will be the first show to open as a posthumous retrospective instead, given the designer’s untimely passing in January of this year. Laia Garcia-furtado, Vogue, 16 Nov. 2022 The posthumous honor from the Gotham Film & Media Institute follows the feature documentary Sidney debuting at the Toronto Film Festival. Etan Vlessing, The Hollywood Reporter, 15 Nov. 2022 When fans saw Mayim share the posthumous sweet moment with Leslie on social media, many couldn't help but feel emotional. Adrianna Freedman, Good Housekeeping, 9 Nov. 2022 Aziz was released from prison in 1985; Islam was released in 1987 but died in 2009 and received a posthumous exoneration. Gloria Pazmino, CNN, 30 Oct. 2022 Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for his portrayal in 2008's The Dark Knight. Lester Fabian Brathwaite, EW.com, 30 Oct. 2022 Houston will be in Cleveland for her father’s posthumous induction into the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Hall of Fame at Cleveland State University. cleveland, 28 Oct. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'posthumous.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

Latin posthumus, alteration of postumus late-born, posthumous, from superlative of posterus coming after — more at posterior

First Known Use

1608, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of posthumous was in 1608

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Dictionary Entries Near posthumous

Cite this Entry

“Posthumous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/posthumous. Accessed 4 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

posthumous

adjective

post·​hu·​mous ˈpäs-chə-məs How to pronounce posthumous (audio)
1
: born after the death of the father
a posthumous son
2
: published after the death of the author
3
: following or occurring after one's death
posthumous fame
a posthumous award
posthumously adverb

Medical Definition

posthumous

adjective

post·​hu·​mous
ˈpäs-chə-məs also -t(y)ə-
1
: born after the death of the father
2
: following or occurring after death
posthumously adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on posthumous

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