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1865, from French philatélie, coined by French stamp collector Georges Herpin (in Le Collectionneur de Timbres-poste, Nov. 15, 1864) from Ancient Greek φιλέω (philéō, I love) + ἀτέλεια (atéleia), the closest word he could find in Ancient Greek to the concept of "postage stamp", from ἀ- (a-, without) + τέλος (télos, tax). This word serves as a reminder of the original function of postage stamps, now often forgotten: the cost of letter-carrying formerly was paid by the recipient; stamps indicated it had been pre-paid by the sender, thus the letters were "carriage-free".


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philately (countable and uncountable, plural philatelies)

  1. Stamp collecting.
  2. The study of postage stamps, postal routes, postal history, etc.

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