from pillar to post


A tennis player serving the ball. The term from pillar to post may have originated from real tennis, the predecessor of the modern game of tennis.


Possibly originally from post to pillar, perhaps a reference to the rapid movement of the ball in real tennis; The Wordsworth Dictionary of Proverbs (1993) notes that from post to pillar dates to at least the 15th century.[1]


  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: from pil‧lar to post


from pillar to post (not comparable)

  1. (idiomatic) From one place (or person, or task) to another; from post to pillar, hither and thither.
    • 1832 July, “A Novelty in Posting”, in The Annual Register, or a View of the History, Politics, and Literature of the Year 1832, volume LXXIV, London: Printed for Baldwin and Cradock [et al.], published 1833, OCLC 759776678, page 81:
      Mr. [Charles] Babbage, in his work on the Economy of Manufactures, suggests a new plan of forwarding the mail. [] Mr. Babbage proposes the erection of pillars along each line of road; these pillars are to be connected by inclined wires, or iron rods, along which the letters, inclosed in cylinders attached to the rods by rings, are to slide; persons stationed on these columns are to forward the cylinders from each point, after having extracted the contents belonging to their own station. In this manner it is calculated that a letter might be sent (from pillar to post), to the farthest limits of the land in the course of a very small portion of time; []
    • 1872, Testimony in Relation to Alleged Frauds in the New York Custom-House, Taken by the Committee on Investigation and Retrenchment (United States Senate, 42d Congress, 2d Session; report no. 227), volume III, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing-Office, OCLC 853127571, page 181:
      Q. You applied to Secretary [George Sewall] Boutwell because you had ascertained you could not get redress anywhere else?—A. No; we were sent from pillar to post, and from post to pillar, and we got no satisfaction any way.
    • 1874 May, “From Pillar to Post”, in Sarah J[osepha] Hale and Louis A[ntoine] Godey, editors, Godey's Lady's Book and Magazine, volume LXXXVIII, number 527, Philadelphia, Pa.: Published by Louis A. Godey, N.E. cor. Sixth and Chestnut Sts., OCLC 8276428, page 421:
      All these things, and others of like nature, are in their minds floating possibilities; in consequence of which they are sent from pillar to post in the realms of opinion, and are never anchored anywhere.
    • 2003, Joan Steinau Lester, Fire in My Soul: Eleanor Holmes Norton, New York, N.Y.: Atria Books, ISBN 978-0-7434-0787-8; republished New York, N.Y.: Atria Books, January 2004, ISBN 978-0-7434-0788-5, page 263:
      We campaigned like hell. On election day we went from pillar to post begging people to support us.
    • 2011 March 28, “Bihar assembly passes bill for time-bound government services”, in Daily Bhaskar[1], archived from the original on 21 June 2016:
      When the bill becomes an act, it will provide a big relief to people who now run from pillar to post and are forced to pay bribes to get their work done in government offices.
    • 2011 April 2, Steve Brenner, “Joey will defy pack of Wolves”, in The Sun, London:
      Back in August, the Toon ace [Joey Barton] was kicked from pillar to post by Karl Henry in a bone-crunching midfield battle at Molineux.

Usage notesEdit

The term normally implies a harassing situation.




  1. ^ G[eorge] L[atimer] Apperson (2006) The Wordsworth Dictionary of Proverbs, new edition, Ware, Herfordshire: Wordsworth Editions, →ISBN, page 457: “Pillar to post, From. Often From post to pillar. c.1420: Lydgate, Assembly of Gods, 34 (E.E.T.S.), Thus fro poost to pylour was he made to daunce.”