<messaging> (e-mail) Messages automatically passed from one computer user
to another, often through computer networks and/or via modems over telephone
A message, especially one following the common RFC 822 standard, begins with
several lines of headers, followed by a blank line, and the body of the message.
Most e-mail systems now support the MIME standard which allows the message body
to contain "attachments" of different kinds rather than just one block of plain
ASCII text. It is conventional for the body to end with a signature.
Headers give the name and electronic mail address of the sender and
recipient(s), the time and date when it was sent and a subject. There are many
other headers which may get added by different message handling systems during
The message is "composed" by the sender, usually using a special program - a
"Mail User Agent" (MUA). It is then passed to some kind of "Message Transfer
Agent" (MTA) - a program which is responsible for either delivering the message
locally or passing it to another MTA, often on another host. MTAs on different
hosts on a network often communicate using SMTP. The message is eventually
delivered to the recipient's mailbox - normally a file on his computer - from
where he can read it using a mail reading program (which may or may not be the
same MUA as used by the sender).
Contrast snail-mail, paper-net, voice-net.
The form "email" is also common, but is less suggestive of the correct
pronunciation and derivation than "e-mail". The word is used as a noun for the
concept ("Isn't e-mail great?", "Are you on e-mail?"), a collection of (unread)
messages ("I spent all night reading my e-mail"), and as a verb meaning "to send
(something in) an e-mail message" ("I'll e-mail you (my report)"). The use of
"an e-mail" as a count noun for an e-mail message, and plural "e-mails", is now
(2000) also well established despite the fact that "mail" is definitely a mass
Oddly enough, the word "emailed" is actually listed in the Oxford English
Dictionary. It means "embossed (with a raised pattern) or arranged in a net
work". A use from 1480 is given. The word is derived from French "emmailleure",
network. Also, "email" is German for enamel.
The story of the first e-mail message.
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