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90s Slang You Should Know


[dahy-uh l, dahyl] /ˈdaɪ əl, daɪl/
a plate, disk, face, or other surface containing markings or figures upon which the time of day is indicated by hands, pointers, or shadows, as of a clock or sundial.
a plate or disk with markings or figures for indicating or registering some measurement or number, as of pressure, number of revolutions, the frequency to which a radio is tuned, etc., usually by means of a pointer.
a rotatable plate, disk, or knob used for regulating a mechanism, making and breaking electrical connections, etc., as in tuning a radio or television station in or out.
Also called rotary dial. a rotatable plate or disk on a telephone, fitted with finger holes that are marked with letters or numbers, used in making calls through an automatic switchboard.
any mechanism on the face of a telephone by which the caller places a call, as push buttons.
Also called miner's dial. Mining. a compass used for underground surveying.
verb (used with object), dialed, dialing or (especially British) dialled, dialling.
to indicate or register on or as if on a dial.
to measure with or as if with a dial.
to regulate, select, or tune in by means of a dial, as on a radio:
to dial my favorite program.
to make a telephone call to:
Dial me at home.
verb (used without object), dialed, dialing or (especially British) dialled, dialling.
to use a telephone dial; to dial a telephone:
I keep dialing, but the line seems dead.
to tune in or regulate by means of a dial:
to dial into the opera broadcast.
(of a telephone) having a rotary dial mechanism.
Verb phrases
dial up, to obtain, reach, or contact by telephone:
to dial up stock-market information; to dial up Chicago and do some business.
Origin of dial
1400-50; late Middle English: instrument for telling time by the sun's shadow, presumably < Medieval Latin diālis daily (Latin di(ēs) day + -ālis -al1)
Related forms
undialed, adjective
undialled, adjective

dial. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for dial
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • "Now then, let me have a look at this," he said, returning to the dial.

  • He examined the dial readings, frowned incredulously, then turned.

    Millennium Everett B. Cole
  • The dial, therefore, would enable the carriage to be engaged with the lead-screw at points equal to a travel of one-half inch.

    Turning and Boring Franklin D. Jones
  • At nine o'clock the needle on the dial climbed past seventy-five.

    The Circuit Riders R. C. FitzPatrick
  • The voltage can be regulated from zero to one thousand volts by simply setting a dial.

    Damned If You Don't Gordon Randall Garrett
British Dictionary definitions for dial


/ˈdaɪəl; daɪl/
the face of a watch, clock, chronometer, sundial, etc, marked with divisions representing units of time
the circular graduated disc of various measuring instruments
  1. the control on a radio or television set used to change the station or channel
  2. the panel on a radio on which the frequency, wavelength, or station is indicated by means of a pointer
a numbered disc on a telephone that is rotated a set distance for each digit of a number being called
a miner's compass for surveying in a mine
(Brit) a slang word for face (sense 1)
verb dials, dialling, dialled (US) dials, dialing, dialed
to establish or try to establish a telephone connection with (a subscriber or his number) by operating the dial on a telephone
(transitive) to indicate, measure, or operate with a dial
Derived Forms
dialler, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Medieval Latin diālis daily, from Latin diēs day


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 dial

early 15c., "sundial," earlier "dial of a compass" (mid-14c.), apparently from Medieval Latin dialis "daily," from Latin dies "day" (see diurnal).

The word perhaps was abstracted from a phrase such as Medieval Latin rota dialis "daily wheel," and evolved to mean any round plate over which something rotates. Telephone sense is from 1879, which led to dial tone (1921), "the signal to begin dialing," which term soon might be the sole relic of the rotary phone.


1650s, "to work with aid of a dial or compass," from dial (n.). Telephone sense is from 1923. Related: Dialed; dialing.


1650s, "to work with aid of a dial or compass," from dial (n.). Telephone sense is from 1923. Related: Dialed; dialing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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