From pillar to post

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From pillar to post is an idiom that has been in existence for nearly five hundred years.  An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning. We will examine the definition of the term from pillar to post, where it most probably came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

From pillar to post describes moving from one place to another with little purpose, planning or thought. Originally, the term was rendered as from post to pillar. There has been much conjecture as to the origin of this phrase, some believing it is related to the practice of public punishment, which involved being tied to a pillar and whipped, as well as locked into a pillory for public mocking. There seems to be little evidence for this suggestion. At this time, most believe that the term is taken from the game known as real tennis, which is a racket game that was the predecessor to modern tennis. Real tennis involved the use of posts and pillars, and was popular at the time of the first known use of the term from pillar to post.


“I have been sent from pillar to post in an effort to get the department to pay the outstanding monies.” (The Bosveld Review)

The family members of a 32-year-old man, Manimaran, of Kalambur village in Tiruvannamalai district, have been running from pillar to post for the last 10 days to receive his body from the Government Vellore Medical College Hospital, where he died on April 19. (The Times of India)

These are customer tasks that can frustrate customers, such as standing in long queues, filling in the same documents more than once, and being passed from pillar to post on the phone. (Africa Outlook Magazine)

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