Pronunciation key

( iks-pres )



[ME. expressen; OFr. expresser, espresser < L. ex- out + pressare press; < Med. L. expressare see PRESS].

  1. To press or squeeze out; extract.
  2. To achieve by using pressure; eliciting by force; extort.
  3. To put into words; representing by language. To communicate such as by a gesture. To state or show.
  4. To make known such as one's opinion or feelings; to reveal; to put forth in words; make emotional display such as he expressed sorrow.
  5. To represent, picture or symbolize in music, art, etc.
  6. To express by representation or a sign; symbolize; signify such as the sign "%" symbolizes percent. To make a depiction of.
  7. To dispatch by express mail, rapid transport; shipping, etc.


[ME. expresse; OFr. expres; L. expressus, pp. of exprimere < ex-, out + premere; see PRESS.]

  1. Definitively expressed, not implied; explicitly stated; therefore
  2. Exact such as an express image.
  3. For a particular, special or definitive purpose such as express reason for attending, therefore,
  4. (Originally, for the express purpose of running to one station.) Quickly, direct with few obstructions such as express train distinguished from local, therefore,
  5. Characterized by speed or velocity; namely,
    • Sent out with fast speed; for fast driving, direct and rapid, presumably non-stop such as an express highway.
    • High speed, such as an express bullet.
    • For high-speed projectiles such as an express rifle.
    • Having to do with railway express, pony express, etc.


  1. A special courier or messenger.
  2. Swiftly delivered goods or mail by such a courier, or a business which is concerned with operating such a system.
    • Express train, bus, truck, or other vehicle employed for such a dispatch which makes few stops or runs non-stop before reaching its destination.
    • Express rifle.
  3. The Pony express.
  4. Method or service which transports goods and dispatching money rapidly; express typically costs more than freight.
  5. Goods or money transported or dispatched by express service.
  6. Any means that transmits or transfers goods or services swiftly, usually non-stop.
  7. A concern of any business which operates through such a system.
  • — express oneself
    • Stating of one's thoughts.
    • Expressing of one's feelings, imaginative thoughts, etc. especially in a context that is artistic or creative.
  • —ex•press′er n. —ex•press′i•ble adj.

    Abbreviated. exp.

    An Express Company is organized to provide quick, secure deliveries of messages, goods or monetary services by railroad or other common carriers, which include pickup from the consignor and delivery to the consignee. The express industry in the U.S. is due to outgrowth of the custom under which stagecoach drivers, railroad conductors and others were entrusted with parcels and product delivery. These services are now provided by railroads and major airlines.

    The express system began in 1839 by William Harnden of Boston (1813-1845), a former railroad conductor who undertook transport of packages and documents between New York and Boston and to carry out commissions for merchants in these cities. Ready demand for express delivery service made it necessary to employ more messengers, several individuals whom later started their own express services in other sections of America. In 1849 the Adams Express co. was established. In 1852 Wells, Fargo and Co., and in 1855 the American-Eruopean Co. One of these men was Henry Wells, who with William G. Fargo, a banker, organized the Wells Company in 1845 which later merged with the Livingston Company to form the American Express Company. Wells and Fargo established an express service in 1852 to serve California and the Far West. Later, it was acquired by the Holladay Overland Mail and Express Company. It retained the name Wells, Fargo and Company and provided express and banking services to the western gold miners and other pioneers. It carried mail and bullion across the plains in stage coaches. A more notable part of its operation was the pony express. With the nationwide introduction of the railroad, the express service was ultimately extended to operations on the Atlantic seaboard.

    The Overland coash begins an eastbound journey from San Francisco in the 1850's. Mail and express were transported to Salt Lake City and to St. Joseph, Missouri via Sacramento.
    Image credit: Railway Express Agency
    The Overland coash begins an eastbound journey from San Francisco in the 1850's. Mail and express were transported to Salt Lake City and to St. Joseph, Missouri via Sacramento.

    With the expansion of railroads, other express companies were established but in 1914, consolidations reduced the number to seven. Those included Adams, American, Wells Fargo, Southern, Great Northern, Western and Northern. Each of these companies operated within a separate territory under contracts with individual railroads whose lines it used. Express companies were radically changed in 1918 when the railroads were placed under federal control due to the war program. All existing express companies were then consolidated under the name American Railway Express Company. This newly established company controlled all express operations in the railway system as an agent of the director-general of railroads, William G. McAdoo. The railroads were returned to private control in 1920 and the company continued operations under agreements with the individual railroads. In 1921 some railroads in the Southeast established a separate company known as the Southeastern Express Company. It retired from business in the year 1938. In 1929 the railroads purchased all of the American Railway Express company's property and established the Railway Express Agency. This new company issued capital stock which was sold to the railroads, followed by other railroads entering into an operating agreement with them.

    Air express cargo is loaded into a shipment transport headed overseas. Established in 1927, air express transport now provides U.S. shippers with quick delivery service worldwide.
    Image credit: Railway Express Agency
    Air express cargo is loaded into a shipment transport headed overseas. Established in 1927, air express transport now provides U.S. shippers with quick delivery service worldwide.

    Since WWI, demand for express railroad service has steadily declined due to competition from parcel post (first established in 1913), motor vehicle transportation and airline freight carriers. Express service by airlines was started in 1927, and the Air Express Division of the Railway Express Agency handled all the express freight carried by the major airlines from 1936. It also maintained interchange arrangements with foreign airlines for package transport between the United States and European, African, Middle Eastern and Far East nations. Further arrangements were made for surface express service by ship, to West Germany and Japan in 1956.

    In 1960, Railway Express maintained 13,500 trucks in its pickup and delivery fleet and used about 2800 refrigeration vehicles equipped to travel at the fastest passenger train speeds. Their freight included all varieties of commodities, live animals, and a large volume of perishable freight that required timely delivery. The majority of long distance express traffic was carried in cars moving in fast passenger trains. Some special trains were devoted exclusively to express shipments and operated between important business centers.

    The American Express Company, one of the original firms in this field, quit the express freight business with the 1918 consolidation. It continued to operate in foreign travel service, travelers checks, foreign exchange banking, and international freight forwarding.

    Syn. explicit, utter.

    References and Further Reading

  • Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language (College Edition) ©1955
  • The New World Family Encyclopedia ©1955
  • The American Peoples Encyclopedia ©1960
  • The American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition ©1985
  • Related Terms

  • expressage
  • expressible
  • expression
  • expressionism
  • expressionist
  • expressionistic
  • expressionistically
  • expressionless
  • expressive
  • expressivity
  • expressly
  • expressman
  • express rifle
  • express train
  • Further Reading

  • Express (Definition)
  • Express (Definition)
  • Express (Definition)
  • Express, Use in a sentence.
  • Express (Definition)
  • Express (Definition)
  • Express (Definition) Thesaurus
  • Express (Definition)
  • Express (Definition)
  • Express (Definition)
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