abbr. POSH Meaning
Elegant, swanky, rich.
This is supposed to be the legend printed on tickets of passengers on P&O (Peninsula and Orient) passenger vessels when travelling between UK and India in the days of the Raj. Britain and India are both in the northern hemisphere so the port (left-hand side) berths were mostly in the shade when travelling out (easterly) and the starboard ones when coming back. So the best and most expensive berths were POSH, hence the term. A very plausible and attractive explanation, but this does appear to be an idea that was dreamed up retrospectively to match an existing meaning. P&O say they have never issued such tickets and, although many tickets from that era still exist, no 'POSH' ones have been found. Numerous letters and literary works also remain from the British Raj but nothing has been found which confirms the word being used in that context. The word doesn't seem to have been used in print before a Punch cartoon dated 1918. The term was used from the mid 19th century to mean a dandy and that is the more likely derivation for the current meaning.

Meaning and origin of phrases. 2013.

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