I was taught that the word postpone was spelled as I just spelled it, but recently I have seen a rise in the spelling postphone (or post phone). At first, I thought it was just a spelling error, but I have begun to see it more and more in official contexts.

Historically, the first spelling is definitely more accurate as you can see in the Online Etymology Dictionary and in Google Ngram. But also notice in the Google Ngram results that recently there has been a slight decline in the use of postpone. If you remove postpone from the Ngram query, you will see that the decline is accompanied by a rise in the use of postphone and post phone.

Are these new spellings becoming an acceptible alternative? Or is this simply a case of the rise in a misspelling accompanying more people having access to publication?

BONUS: The best answer will explain why this variant spelling is so common, if possible.

  • 4
    I've never heard of "post phone". Can you add a link to a source for this phrase to your answer? Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 17:22
  • 2
    Thanks for adding the links. I'm calling those typos. It is an interesting phenomena though! I always learn something new from this site! :-) Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 18:07
  • If we type the word postphone , even auto spell checkers show red underline which clearly means this is just a misspelled word..
    – Sweet72
    Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 18:38
  • 2
    Spell "postpone" as "post pone" and likely many spell checkers will "correct" it to "post phone". Then someone realizes it should be only one word and removes the blank, without noticing the added "h".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 12, 2015 at 18:33
  • 1
    @HotLicks Excellent observation, worthy of another answer. Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 13:44

4 Answers 4


Oh, please, that hurts. This is simply a case of the rise in a misspelling accompanying more people having access to publication, as you say.

"Postphone" is what happens after you drop your cellphone into the toilet, or if someone drives a car into the pole holding up your phone line. Or you run out of money and your carrier truns off your service.

Of course, "postphone" might be a telephone attached to a post. Hard to say for sure.

Except that whoever is spelling it "postphone" needs to be beaten with a wet noodle.


  • That's how I felt about it too, but I wanted to check since I've seen it in a lot of official contexts lately. Sadly, in my personal experience, more than the correct spelling. Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 17:30
  • 1
    I guess I am not getting out enough, but I'd never seen this before. Probably a good thing, since it would have driven up my blood pressure. I guess I am humorless prig when it comes to egregious spelling mistakes. Sad. Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 17:32
  • Yeah, I wanted to check before I started correcting it in my superiors' writing, since they exclusively use the incorrect spelling. Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 17:35
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    And for clarification, yes, I am requested to edit my superiors' writing frequently, so it wouldn't be a case of me being a spelling Nazi. Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 17:36
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    INHO, that's the only good form of Nazi. I have little or no patience for poor spelling. I think it must be in my jeans. Errr, genes. Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 17:39

The original word "postpone" hasn't changed either its pronunciation, spelling or meaning. The links that you have provided seem to have misspelled the word.

However, the correct meaning of "postphone" as per Urban Dictionary is as follows :


A verb meaning "to put off a phone call until a later time."

E.g. : I know you want to talk, but the plane's about to take off. We'll have to postphone.

You can view this link : http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=postphone

  • 3
    I highly suspect that "postphone" as Urban Dictionary defines it has formed since the misspelling of "postpone" had already arisen. Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 18:42
  • 1
    Exactly right. The Urban dictionary was updated in 2010. It's easy to find postphone in 20 year old messages.
    – dcaswell
    Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 18:49

"Postpone" comes from the Latin "post", meaning "after", plus "ponere", "to put" or "to place".

"Postphone" in the same sense is a horrific neologism. In the "phone" sense, it seems to make sense, and is shorter than "I'll have to call you later".

  • 1
    You've added no new information here. The first sentence is already in my Online Etymology source, and the second is identical to Sweet72's inaccurate guess of the origin of "postphone" based on Urban Dictionary. Commented Sep 12, 2013 at 12:38

I am sure it was originally spelled as postphone. The reason I am so sure because I still vividly remember the scene when my teacher corrected the pronunciation of my classmate, who pronounced this word as what it spelled i.e. post phone”. It was in 1979 when I was in Secondary 4. The teacher said “in English, “ph” should always pronounce as if it is an “f”. However, postphone is an exception. It should pronounce like a “b” i.e. “postbone”. “ I don’t know when it started to spell as postpone without the letter “h”. I also try to prove it to my younger friends by surfing net but vain. I suspect it has been changed long before we have the internet.

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    I have dictionaries older than 1979. It never was postphone. It was always postpone, all the time since the Roman Empire. Commented Oct 17, 2018 at 14:27
  • (1) Lots of teachers are wrong. Yours appears to have been grievously so. (2) I live in the US, and (many many years ago) I attended “Elementary School” (grades 1-6), “Junior High School”  (grades 7 and 8), and “High School”  (grades 9-12, but also called “freshman”, “sophomore”, “junior” and “senior”).  I’ve grown accustomed to hearing younger Americans refer to “Middle School” (although I still cringe a little every time I hear it), but I have no idea what “Secondary 4”  means.  You might want to refer to school years as grades (1-12) or by the age you were at the time (typical grade+5±1). Commented Oct 17, 2018 at 20:14
  • @Scott What makes you think that user320547 is American? Secondary 4 almost makes sense in the UK context and, I suspect, might be perfectly standard in Australia or New Zealand. The grade system is not operated in the UK, pupils transfer to the next year by chronological age not by achievement which is what I understand happens in the US. Secondary 4 would then be the fourth year of secondary schooling, ie roughly 14 years of age regardless of achevement.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Mar 13, 2019 at 23:57
  • @BoldBen no one says "Secondary 4" in Australia. If it's referring to the 4th year-level in a secondary school (aka high school), it would be referred to as Year 10, depending on that particular State/Territory's system for year levels. Commented Mar 14, 2019 at 0:24
  • @BoldBen: (1) What makes you think I believe that user320547 is American?  I didn’t say anything like that.  (2) The U.S. system is almost 100% chronological.  Occasionally an advanced student will skip a grade, or a struggling student will repeat a grade, but these events are very rare. Commented Mar 14, 2019 at 3:51

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