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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
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. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for ell
Historical Examples
  • But in political aspirations the giving of an inch has ever created the desire for an ell.

  • 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
  • "Hi never want to be able to find my way back to that 'ell 'ole again," he said.

    The Voodoo Gold Trail Walter Walden
  • She led the way into the house, through the long wood-shed and ell.

    When Life Was Young C. A. Stephens
  • Patty led her upstairs and through the hall into a sort of ell part where there were two rooms.

    A Little Girl in Old Philadelphia Amanda Minnie Douglas
  • Give people like that an inch, and they'll expect a weekly ell.'

    The Convert Elizabeth Robins
  • Men wore the hair long, and had hats of cloth a quarter of an ell or more in height, and all wore most sumptuous chains of gold.

  • It was given at six ells, a Flemish ell being about 27½ inches.

    The Tapestry Book Helen Churchill Candee
  • Again I call to the leader, and again hear a word ending in "ell."

  • ell and tell is ne'er forgotten, and the best pay's on the peck bottom.

    The Proverbs of Scotland Alexander Hislop
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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