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 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

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 Anthony Bourdain earns six nominations Anthony Bourdain has won plenty of Emmys before, but his posthumous six nominations will make for an emotional ceremony following his untimely death. Eliana Dockterman, Time, "The Biggest Snubs and Surprises of the 2018 Emmy Nominations," 12 July 2018 Static Major became the seventh artist with a posthumous Hot 100 No. 1, and the third rapper (following the Notorious B.I.G. in 1997 and Soulja Slim in 2004). Xander Zellner, Billboard, "Static Major Earns Second Posthumous Hot 100 Hit With Drake's 'After Dark'," 11 July 2018 The Beacon will serve as a posthumous continuation of Alsop’s tradition of vibrant, ambitious structures. Alex Bazeley, Curbed, "Playful shopping mall designed by Will Alsop to be built in Kenya," 10 July 2018 Trump floated a posthumous pardon for boxer Muhammad Ali. Kendall Trammell, CNN, "Quickly catch up on the day's news," 8 June 2018 Diana’s affiliation with HIV/AIDS charities was so significant that she was given a posthumous award by Attitude magazine in 2017, which was picked up by Prince Harry. Marcia Moody, Town & Country, "How Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Are Paying Tribute to Princess Diana on Their Wedding Day," 8 May 2018 Four months after her sudden passing last December at the age of 27, the activist and daughter of the late Eric Garner has been honored with a posthumous Shorty Award for her activism., "Erica Garner Honored With A Posthumous Shorty Award For Her Activism In The Fight Against Police Brutality," 17 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

18 Oct 2018

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The first known use of posthumous was in 1608

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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).


one that holds something together

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