Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. One who rides the near horse of the leaders to guide the horses drawing a coach.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A rider mounted on the near, leading horse pulling a carriage who guides the team.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. One who rides and guides the first pair of horses of a coach or post chaise; also, one who rides one of the horses when one pair only is used.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A post-boy; one who rides a post-horse; a guide or forerunner.
  • n. One who rides the near horse of the leaders when four or more horses are used in a carriage or post-chaise, or who rides the near horse when one pair only is used and there is no driver on the box.
  • n. Same as postilion-basque.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. someone who rides the near horse of a pair in order to guide the horses pulling a carriage (especially a carriage without a coachman)

Etymologies

French postillon, from Italian postiglione, from posta, mail, from Old Italian, mail station; see post3.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle French postillon, and its likely source, Italian postiglione ("guide for driver of post-coach"), from posta ("post"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

Comments

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  • also spelled as 'postillion'. Best known for its apocryphal inclusion in 19th century foreign language primers, as part of the immortal phrase: "Stop the coach, the postillion has been struck by lightning!" I know of several people who, like myself, heard this phrase growing up, but have never been able to track it down in print.

    January 29, 2007