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mail order

an order for goods received or shipped through the mail.
the business of selling merchandise through the mail.
Origin of mail order
1865-70, Americanism


[meyl-awr-der] /ˈmeɪlˌɔr dər/
pertaining to or obtained by mail order:
a dozen mail-order rosebushes.
verb (used with object)
to order (merchandise) by mail:
to mail-order fruitcakes for Christmas.
1865-70 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for mail order
Historical Examples
  • It had me worried some, until I tumbles that the Glory Be was a mail order snap.

    Torchy Sewell Ford
  • Learned when I served my time and worked the mail order line for Kellett's.

    Ulysses James Joyce
  • It was here, according to Stets brief report, that Dale Wacker had gone into the mail order business.

    Bound to Succeed Allen Chapman
  • Opening this, he found it to be some part of a mail order office equipment.

    Bound to Succeed Allen Chapman
  • mail order business will pay fairly well from any point if you deal right.

  • The long and short of it is, I am going into the mail order business.

    Bound to Succeed Allen Chapman
  • This new building will be occupied by J. M. Hopkins mail order department.

    Business English Rose Buhlig
  • Frank went into details with Darry as to the mail order business.

    Bound to Succeed Allen Chapman
  • I bet the fello that picks out the camps ether owns a cold storage plant in civil life or else they do it by mail order.

    Dere Mable Edward Streeter
  • The trolley and the mail order houses have made it unnecessary.

    The Challenge of the Country George Walter Fiske
British Dictionary definitions for mail order

mail order

an order for merchandise sent by post
  1. a system of buying and selling merchandise through the post
  2. (as modifier): a mail-order firm
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for mail order



1875, from mail (n.1) + order. Before television and the Internet, the bane of retailers and shop-owners.

The origin, foundation and principle of mail order trading is universally recognized as wrong. It was conceived in iniquity and brought forth in despair as the world's greatest destructive medium. Mail Order Trading was born in the brain of knaves and thieves who fired their building for insurance profits, then sold the salvaged and damaged stock to the unsuspecting sons of man in distant territory. [Thomas J. Sullivan, "Merchants and Manufacturers on Trial," Chicago, 1914]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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