post·​hu·​mous | \ˈpäs-chə-məs also -tə-, -tyə-, -thə-;päst-ˈhyü-məs, ˈpōst-, -ˈyü- \

Definition of posthumous 

1 : born after the death of the father

2 : published after the death of the author

3 : following or occurring after death posthumous fame

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Other Words from posthumous

posthumously adverb
posthumousness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for posthumous





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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.

Examples of posthumous in a Sentence

She received a posthumous award for her life of philanthropy. the soldier was awarded a posthumous medal for valor

Recent Examples on the Web

Isaac, to keep his work from falling into the wrong hands, arranges the posthumous delivery to his granddaughter, Hazel, of the clues to solving his final equation revealing matters fundamental to human existence. Tom Nolan, WSJ, "Mysteries: Best of 2018," 7 Dec. 2018 Billboard reports that XXXTentacion and seven other artists have had posthumous No. Zoe Szathmary, Fox News, "Slain rapper XXXTentacion attends his own funeral in chilling new 'Sad!' music video," 28 June 2018 Justin Sullivan—Getty Images The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which oversees the Walk of Fame, awards around 20 new stars annually, one of which is posthumous. Casey Quackenbush, Time, "'Crocodile Hunter' Steve Irwin Is Remembered With a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame," 28 Apr. 2018 Chapel of Hope, Dallas, TX, 2010 (posthumous) Johnson was commissioned to build a cathedral for this LGBT congregation, which had been decimated by AIDS. Mark Lamster, Curbed, "Arbiter of taste, enfant terrible: The best and worst of Philip Johnson," 6 Nov. 2018 The Must-Read Memoir Bill Cunningham’s posthumous memoir Fashion Climbing, discovered after his death in 2016, traces his rise from shy child secretly trying on his sisters’ dresses to one of fashion’s most lauded photographers. Liz Cantrell, Town & Country, "The Five Books Everyone Will Be Talking About in September," 5 Sep. 2018 While the powerful, solemn speech closed the show, the ceremony had earlier given posthumous honors to three Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School coaches who died while heroically saving the lives of their students. Stephen Sorace, Fox News, "ESPN awards ESPYs to victims of Larry Nassar, hero coaches from Parkland, Fla.," 19 July 2018 Still, the bar for a posthumous pardon is high: Only two have been given by presidents. Malika Andrews, New York Times, "A Relative Wages Jack Johnson’s Biggest Fight: To Clear His Name," 8 May 2018 Previous efforts to secure a posthumous pardon for Johnson, including one in 2016 by Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, and former Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid have failed. Leada Gore,, "Trump considering pardon for boxer Jack Johnson after Sylvester Stallone call," 22 Apr. 2018

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.

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First Known Use of posthumous

1608, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for posthumous

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

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Last Updated

13 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for posthumous

The first known use of posthumous was in 1608

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More Definitions for posthumous



English Language Learners Definition of posthumous

: happening, done, or published after someone's death


post·​hu·​mous | \ˈpäs-chə-məs also -t(y)ə-\

Medical Definition of posthumous 

1 : born after the death of the father

2 : following or occurring after death

Other Words from posthumous

posthumously adverb

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Comments on posthumous

What made you want to look up posthumous? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


living or existing for a long time

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