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) \

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

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

In 1999, US Coast Guard Commandant Admiral James Loy authorized the posthumous awarding of the Purple Heart medal to the crew of the US Coast Cuard Cutter Tampa. Emily Sweeney,, "Springfield native killed in World War I to be honored with Purple Heart at ceremony in Chatham," 26 Aug. 2019 Most bizarrely of all, it was decided that Formosus himself would attend his own posthumous trial. National Geographic, "In 897, the corpse of a pope was exhumed—to be put on trial.," 20 Aug. 2019 Whitman-Walker has been able to remain not only thanks to the annuity, but also because of posthumous donations from about a dozen patients who died of AIDS. Stefanos Chen, New York Times, "A Gentler Way to Gentrify?," 16 Aug. 2019 The estate of Ernest Hemingway keeps releasing works by the Nobel-prize-winning American writer and J.R.R. Tolkien has had two dozen posthumous books published since his death in 1973. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Nine Newly Discovered Proust Stories to Be Published," 6 Aug. 2019 Next year, Smith, who passed away in 1987, will be honored with his first posthumous retrospective at New York’s Cooper Hewitt museum. Brooke Bobb, Vogue, "Willi Smith Was Ahead of His Time and the Cooper Hewitt’s Upcoming Retrospective Will Prove It," 24 July 2019 View Sample Sign Up Now Turing received a posthumous apology from the British government in 2009, and a royal pardon in 2013. Time, "Codebreaker Alan Turing Will Be on Britain's New 50-Pound Currency," 15 July 2019 The fortunes of Graham’s company produced an early warning of how wrong things can go in the posthumous life of a dance troupe. Joan Acocella, The New Yorker, "Can Modern Dance Be Preserved?," 24 June 2019 The Kennedy Center Honors made one exception to their rule about no posthumous awards. Paul Grein, Billboard, "Earth, Wind & Fire Becomes First R&B Group to Receive Kennedy Center Honors," 18 July 2019

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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Statistics for posthumous

Last Updated

6 Sep 2019

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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).


to make a temporary encampment

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