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or el

[el] /ɛl/
an extension usually at right angles to one end of a building.
elbow (def 5).
something that is L -shaped.
Origin of ell1
First recorded in 1765-75; a spelling of the letter name, or by shortening of elbow


[el] /ɛl/
a former measure of length, varying in different countries: in England equal to 45 inches (114 cm).
before 950; Middle English, Old English eln; cognate with Old Norse eln, Old High German elina, Gothic aleina, Latin ulna, Greek ōlénē. See elbow Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for ell
Historical Examples
  • At Lyons, material was sometimes sold for as much as six hundred francs an ell.

    The Dream Emile Zola
  • Gawd love you, guv'nor, they'd fight 'ell's blazes, them chaps would!

    Changing Winds

    St. John G. Ervine
  • The ell is used as a kitchen, dining-room and storehouse combined.

  • The room was a fairly large one, situated in an ell at the rear of the building.

    The Film of Fear Arnold Fredericks
  • Back of the main portion of the saloon was an ell, and it was in this ell that the fire had started.

    Cap'n Eri Joseph Crosby Lincoln
  • Thirty feet by twelve, and an ell for cooking and an ell for stowage.

    Two Arrows William O. Stoddard
  • There 's a leetle word as begins with L. L, I mean, not 'ell.

    Wappin' Wharf Charles S. Brooks
  • E sent Donnelly to 'ell, and 'e's sending me there, too, curse 'im!

    Tessa Louis Becke
  • "Give her an inch, and she'll take an ell," she had said to herself.

    Jewel Clara Louise Burnham
  • Ere, said he at last, jerking his head and rubbing his jaw, how the ell did you do it?

    The Rough Road

    William John Locke
British Dictionary definitions for ell


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


an extension to a building, usually at right angles and located at one end
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
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Word Origin and History for ell

"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].


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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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