POST. i. (An adaptation in O. Eng. of the Lat. posits, from ponere, to place), a stock, stake or stump, particularly an upright timber used as a support in building, as part of the framework of a door, as a boundary mark, etc., and formerly as a convenient object to which to attach public notices, etc., whence the verb " to post," to publish a notice, advertisement, etc., by affixing it in a conspicuous position, hence to make a statement with regard to an event or person, e.g. the " posting " of a defaulter, or of a ship as overdue or missing at Lloyd's.
2. (An adaptation of the Fr. paste, station, position, Ital. posla or posto, formed from the past participle positus, of Lat. ponere, to place), position, station, a position occupied by a soldier or body of soldiers, especially one specifically allotted to a soldier, such as the round of a sentry, hence a place of employment, an office. The sense of station has developed into the particular application of the word and its various derivatives, " postal," " postage," etc., to the service connected with the delivery of letters (see POST AND POSTAL SERVICE). From the earliest times as we see from the afyaptia of the Persian kings (Herod, viii. 98), the speedy despatch of messages, letters, etc., was attained by relays of men and horses stationed at regular intervals. This is paralleled by the disposili equites of Roman times and by the elaborate system of the Great Khan which Marco Polo describes on the roads of China. The New English Dictionary finds the earliest use of the O. Fr. poeste and the Ital. posta for these stations of men and horses in Marco Polo's account. The Medieval Latin expression for the couriers was caballarii postarum, riders of the posts. From the stations or relays of horses the word was early applied to the riders themselves, and later to the mail carried by means of the " posts," and thence to the whole service. At the first establishment of regular posts in the 16th century in England, they served two purposes, the carrying of the king's letters and the exclusive supply of horses for his couriers and for other travellers, the first being called the " posts of the pacquet," the second " the thorough posts." When, in 1780, the monopoly of supplying post-horses was taken away from the " postmasters," the term was retained for the " posting " establishments for travellers throughout the country, as well as in such words as " post-boy " and " post-chaise." The expression " post-haste," generally used adverbially in the sense of " with the utmost speed," was originally a superscription, " haste, post, haste," on letters that needed the greatest despatch, and was a command addressed to the " post," the bearer of the message. The peculiar use of " postmaster " as the name of the " scholars " of Merton College, Oxford, has not been explained. It occurs in the college records first as the name of a building (Postmasters' Hall) outside the college, in which the scholars (called porcionistae or portionistae) lived until about 1575. The suggestion that " postmaster " is a corruption of portionista is far-fetched, and there is nothing to support the theory that the scholars, as servitors to the masters, stood behind them at table and were thus called post-magistri.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)