1835, "apparatus for signaling by musical notes" (devised by Sudré in 1828), from Fr. téléphone
(c.1830), from télé-
"far" (see tele-
) + phone
"sound" (see fame
). Also used of other apparatus early 19c., including "instrument similar to a foghorn for signaling from ship to ship" (1844). The electrical communication tool was first described in modern form by P.Reis (1861); developed by Bell, and so called by him from 1876. The verb is attested from 1878.