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busy signal

Telephony. a regular succession of buzzing tones transmitted to a caller to indicate that the circuit serving the number is blocked or in use, rapid repetition indicating that the network is blocked and normal repetition that the telephone being called is in use.
Origin of busy signal
First recorded in 1890-95 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for busy signal
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  • The sound I got wasn't even a busy signal -- it was like a whimper of pain from the phone system.

    Little Brother

    Cory Doctorow
British Dictionary definitions for busy signal

busy signal

(US & Canadian) a repeated single note heard on a telephone when the number called is already in use Also called (especially in Britain) engaged tone
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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