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  1. Informal. elevated railroad.

Origin of el1

by shortening


  1. ell1.


  1. the letter l.


or el

  1. an extension usually at right angles to one end of a building.
  2. elbow(def 5).
  3. something that is L-shaped.

Origin of ell1

First recorded in 1765–75; a spelling of the letter name, or by shortening of elbow


  1. elevation.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for el

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • I described Bedr el Gemly as best I could, feature by feature.

    It Happened in Egypt

    C. N. Williamson

  • Boabdil el Chico had taken the field, at the head of a numerous army.

    Leila, Complete

    Edward Bulwer-Lytton

  • Of El Dorado, or his real reason for leaving the Yukon, he said nothing.

    Murder Point

    Coningsby Dawson

  • He was the will of destiny decreeing that Spurling should not reach El Dorado alive.

    Murder Point

    Coningsby Dawson

  • The Kaid el habs was bringing a courier, who carried an order for Israel's release.

    The Scapegoat

    Hall Caine

British Dictionary definitions for el


  1. US informal a shortened form of elevated railway or railroadSee elevated railway


  1. an obsolete unit of length equal to approximately 45 inches

Word Origin

Old English eln the forearm (the measure originally being from the elbow to the fingertips); related to Old High German elina, Latin ulna, Greek ōlenē


  1. an extension to a building, usually at right angles and located at one end
  2. a pipe fitting, pipe, or tube with a sharp right-angle bend

Word Origin

C20: a spelling of L, indicating a right angle
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

Word Origin and History for el


American English abbreviation of elevated railroad, first recorded 1906 in O. Henry.



type of building extension, 1773, American English; so called for resemblance to the shape of the alphabet letter.



"unit of measure of 45 inches," Old English eln, originally "forearm, length of the arm" (as a measure, anywhere from a foot and a half to two feet), from PIE *el- (1) "elbow, forearm" (cf. Greek olene "elbow," Latin ulna, Armenian uln "shoulder," Sanskrit anih "part of the leg above the knee," Lithuanian alkune "elbow").

The exact distance varied, depending on whose arm was used as the base and whether it was measured from the shoulder to the fingertip or the wrist: the Scottish ell was 37.2 inches, the Flemish 27 inches. Latin ulna also was a unit of linear measure, and cf. cubit.

Whereas shee tooke an inche of liberty before, tooke an ell afterwardes [Humfrey Gifford, "A Posie of Gilloflowers," 1580].
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper