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.

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 With Songwriter, his 72nd studio album and fifth posthumous studio LP, due next month (June 28), Cash is still collecting hits and blessing the world’s ears over 20 years after his tragic passing. Jason Lipshutz, Billboard, 15 May 2024 Over the weekend, the late Toby Keith was bestowed with a hometown honor: The University of Oklahoma presented the musician with a posthumous honorary degree. Larisha Paul, Rolling Stone, 13 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for posthumous 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'posthumous.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 22 May. 2024.

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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