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ell1

[el] /ɛl/
noun
1.
an extension usually at right angles to one end of a building.
2.
elbow (def 5).
3.
something that is L -shaped.
Also, el.
Origin
1765-1775
1765-75; a spelling of the letter name, or by shortening of elbow

ell2

[el] /ɛl/
noun
1.
a former measure of length, varying in different countries: in England equal to 45 inches (114 cm).
Origin
before 950; Middle English, Old English eln; cognate with Old Norse eln, Old High German elina, Gothic aleina, Latin ulna, Greek ōlénē. See elbow
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for ell

ell1

/ɛl/
noun
1.
an obsolete unit of length equal to approximately 45 inches
Word Origin
Old English eln the forearm (the measure originally being from the elbow to the fingertips); related to Old High German elina, Latin ulna, Greek ōlenē

ell2

/ɛl/
noun
1.
an extension to a building, usually at right angles and located at one end
2.
a pipe fitting, pipe, or tube with a sharp right-angle bend
Word Origin
C20: a spelling of L, indicating a right angle
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for ell
n.

"unit of measure of 45 inches," Old English eln, originally "forearm, length of the arm" (as a measure, anywhere from a foot and a half to two feet), from PIE *el- (1) "elbow, forearm" (cf. Greek olene "elbow," Latin ulna, Armenian uln "shoulder," Sanskrit anih "part of the leg above the knee," Lithuanian alkune "elbow").

The exact distance varied, depending on whose arm was used as the base and whether it was measured from the shoulder to the fingertip or the wrist: the Scottish ell was 37.2 inches, the Flemish 27 inches. Latin ulna also was a unit of linear measure, and cf. cubit.

Whereas shee tooke an inche of liberty before, tooke an ell afterwardes [Humfrey Gifford, "A Posie of Gilloflowers," 1580].

type of building extension, 1773, American English; so called for resemblance to the shape of the alphabet letter.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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3
5
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