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[sel] /sɛl/
verb (used with object), sold, selling.
to transfer (goods) to or render (services) for another in exchange for money; dispose of to a purchaser for a price:
He sold the car to me for $1000.
to deal in; keep or offer for sale:
He sells insurance. This store sells my favorite brand.
to make a sale or offer for sale to:
He'll sell me the car for $1000.
to persuade or induce (someone) to buy something:
The salesman sold me on a more expensive model than I wanted.
to persuade or induce someone to buy (something):
The clerk really sold the shoes to me by flattery.
to make sales of:
The hot record sold a million copies this month.
to cause to be accepted, especially generally or widely:
to sell an idea to the public.
to cause or persuade to accept; convince:
to sell the voters on a candidate.
to accept a price for or make a profit of (something not a proper object for such action):
to sell one's soul for political power.
to force or exact a price for:
The defenders of the fort sold their lives dearly.
Informal. to cheat, betray, or hoax.
verb (used without object), sold, selling.
to engage in selling something.
to be on sale.
to offer something for sale:
I like this house—will they sell?
to be employed to persuade or induce others to buy, as a salesperson or a clerk in a store:
One sister is a cashier and the other sells.
to have a specific price; be offered for sale at the price indicated (followed by at or for):
Eggs used to sell at sixty cents a dozen. This shirt sells for thirty dollars.
to be in demand by buyers:
On a rainy day, umbrellas really sell.
to win acceptance, approval, or adoption:
Here's an idea that'll sell.
an act or method of selling.
Stock Exchange. a security to be sold.
Informal. a cheat; hoax.
Verb phrases
sell off, to sell, especially at reduced prices, in order to get rid of:
The city is selling off a large number of small lots at public auction.
sell out,
  1. to dispose of entirely by selling.
  2. to betray (an associate, one's country, a cause, etc.); turn traitor:
    He committed suicide rather than sell out to the enemy.
sell up, British. to sell out:
She was forced to sell up her entire stock of crystal.
sell short. short (def 49).
sell someone a bill of goods. bill of goods (def 3).
Origin of sell1
before 900; Middle English sellen (v.), Old English sellan orig., to give, hence, give up (someone) to an enemy, betray, exchange for money; cognate with Old Norse selja, Low German sellen, Gothic saljan to give up, sell, orig., to cause to take; akin to Greek heleîn to take
Related forms
sellable, adjective
1. exchange, vend.
1. buy.
Synonym Study
1. See trade. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for sellable


verb sells, selling, sold
to dispose of or transfer or be disposed of or transferred to a purchaser in exchange for money or other consideration; put or be on sale
to deal in (objects, property, etc): he sells used cars for a living
(transitive) to give up or surrender for a price or reward: to sell one's honour
to promote or facilitate the sale of (objects, property, etc): publicity sells many products
to induce or gain acceptance of: to sell an idea
(intransitive) to be in demand on the market: these dresses sell well in the spring
(transitive) (informal) to deceive or cheat
(transitive) foll by on. to persuade to accept or approve (of): to sell a buyer on a purchase
(informal) sell down the river, to betray
sell oneself
  1. to convince someone else of one's potential or worth
  2. to give up one's moral or spiritual standards, etc
sell short
  1. (informal) to disparage or belittle
  2. (finance) to sell securities or goods without owning them in anticipation of buying them before delivery at a lower price
the act or an instance of selling Compare hard sell, soft sell
  1. a trick, hoax, or deception
  2. (Irish) a great disappointment: the service in the hotel was a sell
Derived Forms
sellable, adjective
Word Origin
Old English sellan to lend, deliver; related to Old Norse selja to sell, Gothic saljan to offer sacrifice, Old High German sellen to sell, Latin cōnsilium advice
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 sellable



Old English sellan "to give, furnish, supply, lend; surrender, give up; deliver to; promise," from Proto-Germanic *saljan "offer up, deliver" (cf. Old Norse selja "to hand over, deliver, sell;" Old Frisian sella, Old High German sellen "to give, hand over, sell;" Gothic saljan "to offer a sacrifice"), ultimately from PIE root *sel- (3) "to take, grasp."

Meaning "to give up for money" had emerged by c.1000, but in Chaucer selle still can mean "to give." Students of Old English learn early that the word that looks like sell usually means "give." An Old English word for "to sell" was bebycgan, from bycgan "to buy."

Slang meaning "to swindle" is from 1590s. The noun phrase hard sell is recorded from 1952. To sell one's soul is from c.1570. Sell-by date is from 1972. To sell like hot cakes is from 1839. Selling-point attested from 1959.

To sell (someone) down the river is first recorded 1927, but probably from or with recollection of slavery days, on notion of sale from the Upper South to the cotton plantations of the Deep South (attested in this literal sense since 1851).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for sellable



A hoax or swindle; a deception: The Cardiff Giant was a ''sell'' (1838+)


  1. To cheat; swindle; hoax: I've tunneled, hydraulicked, and cradled, and I have been frequently sold (1597+)
  2. o convince someone of the value of something: But would it sell anybody else? I doubt it (1916+)

Related Terms

hard sell, soft sell, be sold on

[first verb sense said in an article of 1810 to be derived from sell a bargain, ''the dexterous transfer of any unmarketable commodity for a high price to an unwary customer'']

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with sellable
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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