from post to pillar


A player at the 2013 AEGON International Eastbourne tennis tournament held at the Devonshire Park Lawn Tennis Club in Eastbourne, East Sussex, England, UK. The term from post to pillar, which gave rise to the modern term from pillar to post, may have originated from real tennis, the predecessor of the modern game of tennis.


Possibly a reference to the rapid movement of the ball in real tennis. The term is believed to have given rise to the modern term from pillar to post.[1]


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

Prepositional phraseEdit

from post to pillar

  1. (idiomatic, obsolete) From one place (or person, or task) to another; from pillar to post, hither and thither.
    • c. 1420, formerly attributed to John Lydgate, Hrre [sic] Folowyth the Interpretacõn of the Names of Goddis and Goddesses of this Treatyse Folowynge as Poetes Wryte, [Westminster, i.e., London: Printed by Wynkyn de Worde, published 1498], OCLC 561380359; republished as Oscar Lovell Triggs, editor, The Assembly of Gods: or, The Accord of Reason and Sensuality in the Fear of Death by John Lydgate. Ed. from the Mss. with Introduction, Notes, Index of Persons and Places, and Glossary, by Oscar Lovell Triggs (Early English Text Society, Extra Series; 69), London: Published for the Early English Text Society by K. Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., 1896, OCLC 4125645, page 34, lines 1145–1148:
      Whyche dooñ he hym sent to Contrycion, / And fro thensforth to Satysfaccion. / Thus fro poost to pylour was he made to daunce, / And at the last he went forthe to Penaunce.
    • 1562, John Heywood, Iohn Heywoodes Woorkes. A Dialogue Conteynyng the Number of the Effectuall Prouerbes in the Englishe Tounge, Compact in a Matter Concernynge Two Maner of Maryages. With One Hundred of Epigrammes: and Thrée Hundred of Epigrammes vpon Thrée Hundred Prouerbes: and a Fifth Hundred of Epigrams. Whervnto are Now Newly Added a Syxt Hundred of Epigrams by the Sayde Iohn Heywood, London: [Imprinted at London in Fléetestrete by Thomas Powell], OCLC 78701810; republished as John S. Farmer, editor, The Proverbs, Epigrams, and Miscellanies of John Heywood: Comprising A Dialogue of the Effectual Proverbs in the English Tongue Concerning Marriages—Five Hundred Epigrams—Three Hundred Epigrams on Three Hundred Proverbs—The Fifth Hundred Epigrams—A Sixth Hundred Epigrams—Miscellanies—Ballads—Note-book and Word-List (Early English Dramatists), London: Privately printed for subscribers by the Early English Drama Society, 18 Bury Street, Bloomsbury, W.C., 1906, OCLC 24204980, pages 55 and 218:
      {“A Dialogue Containing the Number of the Effectual Proverbs in the English Tongue. Part II. Chapter II.”, page 55} What, a post of physic, (said she)? Yea a post; / And from post to pillar, wife, I have been tossed / By that surfeit. And I feel a little fit / Even now, by former attempting of it.
      {“Three Hundred Epigrammes, upon Three Hundred Prouerbes, Invented and Made by John Heywood”, page 218} 251. "Of Post and Pillar." / Tossed from post to pillar: thou art a pillar strong; / And thou hast been a pillar, some say, too long.
    • 1804 March 19, “Seat of Government”, in “the author of the Thirty Years' View” [i.e., Thomas Hart Benton], editor, Abridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856. From Gales and Seaton's Annals of Congress; from their Register of Debates; and from the Official Reported Debates, by John C. Rives, volume III (October 17, 1803 – April 25, 1808), New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton & Company, 346 & 348 Broadway; Columbus, Oh.: Follett, Foster & Co., published 1857, OCLC 757631799, pages 45 and 47–48:
      [page 45] The bill for the temporary removal of the seat of Government of the United States to the city of Baltimore was taken up for its second reading. [] [pages 47–48] Does it not show, in terms of unequivocal meaning, that it was the opinion of the men best qualified to decide, that the seat of Government, once fixed under the provision of the constitution, must be permanent? It was not then imagined that the Government ought to be travelling about from post to pillar, according to the prevalence of this or that party or faction.
    • 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 422:
      How often we see men who have been nearly everything in the world outside the unelastic professions—directors and secretaries, clerks in all manner of offices, and managers of all sorts of schemes—knocking about from America to England, and from Australia to Japan; without specialty, but with a good general business faculty, understanding all about tare and tret and double entry and working up a business, they are the very embodiments of the popular saying, and are flung from pillar to post and from post to pillar, as a juggler flings his plates or balls from one hand to the other.




  1. ^ Robert [E.] Allen (2008), “from pillar to post”, in Allen's Dictionary of English Phrases (Penguin Reference), updated edition, London: Penguin Books, →ISBN:
    The phrase is thought to be a metaphor from the bounding and rebounding of the ball in real tennis, and was discussed by Sir James Murray during his editing of the Oxford English Dictionary, in Notes and Queries December 1905, p. 528. Murray commented as follows: ‘The original form of this expression was from post to pillar. Of twenty-two quotations between 1420 (Lydgate) and 1700 now before me, seventeen have the original and five the later form, three of the latter being in verse, and having post riming with tost, tossed, which was apparently the fons et origo of the transposition ... May I throw out the conjecture ... that the game in which there was a chance of something being tossed from post to pillar was tennis?’.
  • G[eorge] L[atimer] Apperson (2006), “Pillar to post, From”, in The Wordsworth Dictionary of Proverbs, new edition, Ware, Herfordshire: Wordsworth Editions, →ISBN, page 457.