MAIL, (i) (Through Fr. maille, from Lat. macula, a spot or hole, the mesh of a net), properly a metal ring or link which, joined closely with other links, formed the fabric of body and other armour in the middle ages, till it was superseded by platearmour. The word " mail," properly applied to this form of chain-armour, is also used of armour generally, whether plate or chain, and is also transferred to the horny defensive coverings of animals, such as the tortoise, crab, etc. (see ARMS AND ARMOUR). (2) (O. Eng. mdl, speech; probably the same as O. Saxon mahal, assembly; in meaning connected with O.Norse male, stipulation), a Scots law term meaning rent, tax. " Mails and duties " are the rents, whether in kind or money, of an estate. In English the word only survives in " blackmail " (?..). (3) (Through O. Fr. male, mod. matte, a Teutonic word surviving in Dutch maal), properly a bag, especially one used in travelling; this word, which appears in Chaucer, is now applied chiefly to the despatch and delivery of postal matter. In this sense " mail" is properly the bag in which such matter is conveyed, and hence is applied to the contents of the mail, postal matter collectively, and to the train, carts, or other means used in the despatch and delivery of the same. In general usage " mail " is confined to the " foreign " as opposed to the " inland " despatch of letters, etc., and to which the word " post " is chiefly applied; in official language, the word refers to the inland despatch. The word appears also in " mail-coach," a coach used for conveying the mails, and in " mail-cart," a cart similarly employed. This word is also applied to a light low vehicle propelled or drawn by hand, suitable for young children. The " mail phaeton " is a type of phaeton with high seat for two persons and drawn by a pair of horses.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)