electronic mail

noun

Origin:
1975–80

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Collins
World English Dictionary
electronic mail
 
n
e-mail, email, Abbreviation: E-mail the transmission and distribution of messages, information, facsimiles of documents, etc, from one computer terminal to another

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

electronic mail
1977, from electronic + mail. Cf. e-mail.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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FOLDOC
Computing Dictionary

electronic mail definition

messaging
(e-mail) Messages automatically passed from one computer user to another, often through computer networks and/or via modems over telephone lines.
A message, especially one following the common RFC 822 standard, begins with several lines of headers, followed by a blank line, and the body of the message. Most e-mail systems now support the MIME standard which allows the message body to contain "attachments" of different kinds rather than just one block of plain ASCII text. It is conventional for the body to end with a signature.
Headers give the name and electronic mail address of the sender and recipient(s), the time and date when it was sent and a subject. There are many other headers which may get added by different message handling systems during delivery.
The message is "composed" by the sender, usually using a special program - a "Mail User Agent" (MUA). It is then passed to some kind of "Message Transfer Agent" (MTA) - a program which is responsible for either delivering the message locally or passing it to another MTA, often on another host. MTAs on different hosts on a network often communicate using SMTP. The message is eventually delivered to the recipient's mailbox - normally a file on his computer - from where he can read it using a mail reading program (which may or may not be the same MUA as used by the sender).
Contrast snail-mail, paper-net, voice-net.
The form "email" is also common, but is less suggestive of the correct pronunciation and derivation than "e-mail". The word is used as a noun for the concept ("Isn't e-mail great?", "Are you on e-mail?"), a collection of (unread) messages ("I spent all night reading my e-mail"), and as a verb meaning "to send (something in) an e-mail message" ("I'll e-mail you (my report)"). The use of "an e-mail" as a count noun for an e-mail message, and plural "e-mails", is now (2000) also well established despite the fact that "mail" is definitely a mass noun.
Oddly enough, the word "emailed" is actually listed in the Oxford English Dictionary. It means "embossed (with a raised pattern) or arranged in a net work". A use from 1480 is given. The word is derived from French "emmailleure", network. Also, "email" is German for enamel.
The story of the first e-mail message (http://pretext.com/mar98/features/story2.htm).
(2002-07-14)
The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010 http://foldoc.org
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Example sentences
The new models can also hold scores of electronic mail messages transferred
  from a desktop computer.
Second, the user can send a missive to any reporter via electronic mail,
  forcing journalists to listen to their public.
They can call or write or send a facsimile or electronic mail to him.
It also warns that administrators may read students' electronic mail and
  computer files.
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