30 December 2012


Today is not a quotation but a question... Could anybody (English native speaker) explain me what is the difference between mail box, post box and letter box? How do you use these words? Is there a difference between British and American English?

I'm not the only English learner who has problems with them, and I found contradictory explanations in different dictionaries, so I'm more confused after searching...

Thank you in advance!


  1. In Western Canada we use the term "mailbox" for the receptacle that we use to receive mail as well as for the one that we use for sending out mail. I live in a rural area where we don't have door-to-door delivery so I don't have/need a mailbox at our home. I have to walk down the road to the Community Mailboxes to get my mail. I've not heard the term 'postbox' used here but we do have 'post office box' or 'PO Box'. Take a look here:


  2. In Australia if you have street delivery you have a letterbox, and this is where you receive your mail.
    You send mail via the postal mail box.
    If you dont have street delivery or if you are a business or on a farm you would have a post office box (PO Box).
    In remote areas you might have roadside delivery in the form of a roadside mailbox (where letters are both sent and received) or a mail bag. These are becoming less common though as mail delivery is given to private contractors and people are having to collect mail from the nearest town, which in some cases can be hundreds of miles away.

  3. In the US, I think it might seem a bit pretentious to use "postbox" or "letterbox." We use mailbox for every box that collects mail. However, I am not a language expert, just an observer of how people use words. Although, I have a mailbox in front of my house, and I have a post office box, which I don't really think of as a mailbox. It is a generic box at the post office among many boxes, all the same. I think of postbox being British, and letterbox being Asian.

  4. Thank you very much for answering!

  5. For the British interpretation :) We don't really use mailbox here though people would understand of course. I put my cards into the (red) letterbox on the roadside and also post is delivered to me each day through the letterbox in my door. The incoming letterbox is usually only a slit in the door but some people do have a box behind it.

    The postbox, though, is only the red roadside box or the postbox in the post office. It is also known as a pillar box if it is a standalone postbox. It is for outgoing mail.

    I don't know that it helps, I may only be confusing things. :)

    1. It helps a lot! But the whole matter is a bit confusing for a non-English native, because of the differences between conuntries...

    2. Sheila is perfectly correct about her use of the word pillar box in that it should only be used for a free-standing post-box. But often - perhaps out of laziness, we also use it for a letterbox (for posting mail) that is in a wall.

      It was only reading Sheila's reply that I realised our letterbox in the door is now so rarely a 'box'. Usually the mail just falls onto the doormat. The only person I know with an actual box behind the slit in the door is someone with a dog that tears everything up!! Presumably in days gone by it was more common to have a box - hence the name.


Thank you for coming. All your comments make me extremely happy.