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spell1

[spel] /spɛl/
verb (used with object), spelled or spelt, spelling.
1.
to name, write, or otherwise give the letters, in order, of (a word, syllable, etc.):
Did I spell your name right?
2.
(of letters) to form (a word, syllable, etc.):
The letters spelled a rather rude word.
3.
to read letter by letter or with difficulty (often followed by out):
She painfully spelled out the message.
4.
to discern or find, as if by reading or study (often followed by out).
5.
to signify; amount to:
This delay spells disaster for us.
verb (used without object), spelled or spelt, spelling.
6.
to name, write, or give the letters of words, syllables, etc.:
He spells poorly.
7.
to express words by letters, especially correctly.
Verb phrases
8.
spell down, to outspell others in a spelling match.
9.
spell out,
  1. to explain something explicitly, so that the meaning is unmistakable:
    Must I spell it out for you?
  2. to write out in full or enumerate the letters of which a word is composed:
    The title “Ph.D.” is seldom spelled out.
Origin
1250-1300
1250-1300; Middle English spellen < Old French espeller < Germanic; compare Old English spellian to talk, announce (derivative of spell spell2), Old High German -spellōn, Old Norse spjalla, Gothic spillōn
Related forms
spellable, adjective
unspellable, adjective
Synonyms
5. foretell, portend, mean, promise.

spell2

[spel] /spɛl/
noun
1.
a word, phrase, or form of words supposed to have magic power; charm; incantation:
The wizard cast a spell.
2.
a state or period of enchantment:
She was under a spell.
3.
any dominating or irresistible influence; fascination:
the spell of fine music.
Origin
before 900; Middle English spell, Old English: discourse; cognate with Old High German spel, Old Norse spjall, Gothic spill tale; see spell1, gospel
Related forms
spellful, adjective
spell-like, adjective

spell3

[spel] /spɛl/
noun
1.
a continuous course or period of work or other activity:
to take a spell at the wheel.
2.
a turn of work so taken.
3.
a turn, bout, fit, or period of anything experienced or occurring:
a spell of coughing.
4.
an indefinite interval or space of time:
Come visit us for a spell.
5.
a period of weather of a specified kind:
a hot spell.
6.
Australian. a rest period.
7.
Archaic. a person or set of persons taking a turn of work to relieve another.
verb (used with object)
8.
to take the place of for a time; relieve:
Let me spell you at the wheel.
9.
Australian. to declare or give a rest period to.
verb (used without object)
10.
Australian. to have or take a rest period.
Origin
1585-95; (v.) alteration of earlier spele to stand instead of, relieve, spare, Middle English spelen, Old English spelian; akin to Old English spala, gespelia a substitute; (noun) akin to the v. (perhaps continuing Old English gespelia)
Synonyms
4. while, bit, piece.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for spell
  • His team found that over their study period, geyser intervals got longer as the park went into a prolonged dry spell.
  • The verbiage devoted to the denigration of spell check could fill a dictionary.
  • The easterners have learned, mostly, to spell western names properly.
  • But they sometimes disappear for weeks, diving more than a mile down and resting in the chilly deep for a spell.
  • The fact that they're not could spell trouble for humans, too.
  • We were warned by well meaning friends before he was born that his name will spell trouble.
  • Among other things, the revised regulations would spell out when.
  • It's not as susceptible to variation as his surname, but there are a few different ways to spell it.
  • Wet winters can spell trouble if deep snow impairs their movement or covers their food.
  • Even modest shocks, such as a temporary dry spell or a routine infection, can be devastating.
British Dictionary definitions for spell

spell1

/spɛl/
verb spells, spelling, spelt, spelled
1.
to write or name in correct order the letters that comprise the conventionally accepted form of (a word or part of a word)
2.
(transitive) (of letters) to go to make up the conventionally established form of (a word) when arranged correctly: d-o-g spells dog
3.
(transitive) to indicate or signify: such actions spell disaster for our cause
See also spell out
Derived Forms
spellable, adjective
Word Origin
C13: from Old French espeller, of Germanic origin; related to Old Norse spialla to talk, Middle High German spellen

spell2

/spɛl/
noun
1.
a verbal formula considered as having magical force
2.
any influence that can control the mind or character; fascination
3.
a state induced by or as if by the pronouncing of a spell; trance: to break the spell
4.
under a spell, held in or as if in a spell
verb
5.
(transitive) (rare) to place under a spell
Word Origin
Old English spell speech; related to Old Norse spjall tale, Gothic spill, Old High German spel

spell3

/spɛl/
noun
1.
an indeterminate, usually short, period of time: a spell of cold weather
2.
a period or tour of duty after which one person or group relieves another
3.
(Scot & Austral, NZ) a period or interval of rest
verb
4.
(transitive) to take over from (a person) for an interval of time; relieve temporarily
5.
(NZ) spell a paddock, to give a field a rest period by letting it lie fallow
Word Origin
Old English spelian to take the place of, of obscure origin
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 spell
v.

"name the letters of," Old English spellian "to tell, speak," infl. by Old French espeller "declare, spell," from Frankish *spellon "to tell;" both Old English and Frankish from Proto-Germanic *spellan (cf. Old High German spellon "to tell," Old Norse spjalla, Gothic spillon "to talk, tell"), from PIE *spel- "to say aloud, recite." Related: Spelled; spelling.

Meaning "write or say the letters of a word" is c.1400, from notion of "read letter by letter, read with difficulty" (c.1300). Spell out "explain step-by-step" is first recorded 1940, American English. Spelling bee is from 1878 (earlier simply spelling, 1860).

"work in place of (another)," Old English spelian "to take the place of," related to gespelia "substitute," of uncertain origin. Perhaps related to spilian "to play" (see spiel). Related: Spelled; spelling. The noun meaning "indefinite period of time" first recorded 1706.

n.

"incantation, charm," Old English spell "story, speech," from Proto-Germanic *spellan (cf. Old Norse spjall, Old High German spel, Gothic spill "report, discourse, tale;" German Beispiel "example;" see spell (v.1)). Meaning "set of words with magical powers, incantation, charm" first recorded 1570s.

The term 'spell' is generally used for magical procedures which cause harm, or force people to do something against their will -- unlike charms for healing, protection, etc. ["Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore"]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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spell in Technology
The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010 http://foldoc.org
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Idioms and Phrases with spell

spell

In addition to the idiom beginning with
spell
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Encyclopedia Article for spell

incantation

words uttered in a set formula with magical intent. The correct recitation, often with accompanying gestures, is considered to unleash supernatural power. Some societies believe that incorrect recitation can not only nullify the magic but cause the death of the practitioner.

Learn more about incantation with a free trial on Britannica.com
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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