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[tel-uh-fohn] /ˈtɛl əˌfoʊn/
an apparatus, system, or process for transmission of sound or speech to a distant point, especially by an electric device.
verb (used with object), telephoned, telephoning.
to speak to or summon (a person) by telephone.
to send (a message) by telephone.
verb (used without object), telephoned, telephoning.
to send a message by telephone.
Also, phone.
Origin of telephone
1825-35; tele-1 + -phone
Related forms
telephoner, noun
pretelephone, adjective
retelephone, verb, retelephoned, retelephoning. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for telephone
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • "telephone Service" was its name—and Edna Blank was its head.

    The Knack of Managing Lewis K. Urquhart and Herbert Watson
  • When, finally, he addressed his friend over the telephone, his tones were of the cheerfulest.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • He hesitated as he glanced at the telephone wires which Delaney had cut.

    Whispering Wires Henry Leverage
  • Only the maid answered the ringing of the telephone, and his notes were seemingly unheeded.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • She walked away from the telephone booth with her face burning, and her heart beating quickly with anger and resentment.

    The Beloved Woman Kathleen Norris
British Dictionary definitions for telephone


  1. Also called telephone set. an electrical device for transmitting speech, consisting of a microphone and receiver mounted on a handset
  2. (as modifier): a telephone receiver
  1. a worldwide system of communications using telephones. The microphone in one telephone converts sound waves into electrical signals that are transmitted along a telephone wire or by radio to one or more distant sets, the receivers of which reconvert the incoming signal into the original sound
  2. (as modifier): a telephone exchange, a telephone call
to call or talk to (a person) by telephone
to transmit (a recorded message, radio or television programme, or other information) by telephone, using special transmitting and receiving equipment
Often shortened to phone
Derived Forms
telephoner, noun
telephonic (ˌtɛlɪˈfɒnɪk) adjective
telephonically, adverb
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 telephone

1835, "apparatus for signaling by musical notes" (devised by Sudré in 1828), from French téléphone (c.1830), from télé- "far" (see tele-) + phone "sound" (see fame (n.)). 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.


1878, from telephone (n.). Related: Telephoned; telephoning.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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