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[tel-i-graf, -grahf] /ˈtɛl ɪˌgræf, -ˌgrɑf/
an apparatus, system, or process for transmitting messages or signals to a distant place, especially by means of an electric device consisting essentially of a sending instrument and a distant receiving instrument connected by a conducting wire or other communications channel.
Nautical. an apparatus, usually mechanical, for transmitting and receiving orders between the bridge of a ship and the engine room or some other part of the engineering department.
a telegraphic message.
verb (used with object)
to transmit or send (a message) by telegraph.
to send a message to (a person) by telegraph.
Informal. to divulge or indicate unwittingly (one's intention, next offensive move, etc.), as to an opponent or to an audience; broadcast:
The fighter telegraphed his punch and his opponent was able to parry it. If you act nervous too early in the scene, you'll telegraph the character's guilt.
verb (used without object)
to send a message by telegraph.
Origin of telegraph
< French télégraphe (1792) a kind of manual signaling device; see tele-1, -graph
Related forms
[tuh-leg-ruh-fer] /təˈlɛg rə fər/ (Show IPA).
especially British, telegraphist, noun
pretelegraph, adjective
retelegraph, verb
untelegraphed, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for telegraph
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • They have seen the telegraph line, as can be seen by signs they make, but they cannot speak English.

  • "Write, telegraph—pray let me know somehow," answered Hardy.

    Life in London Edwin Hodder
  • As far away from post offices and telegraph offices as possible.

  • The young man looked at the world from a telegraph point of view.

  • Yates, as he lay on the ground, wrote rapidly on the telegraph blank.

British Dictionary definitions for telegraph


/ˈtɛlɪˌɡræf; -ˌɡrɑːf/
  1. a device, system, or process by which information can be transmitted over a distance, esp using radio signals or coded electrical signals sent along a transmission line connected to a transmitting and a receiving instrument
  2. (as modifier): telegraph pole
a message transmitted by such a device, system, or process; telegram
to send a telegram to (a person or place); wire
(transitive) to transmit or send by telegraph
(transitive) (boxing, informal) to prepare to deliver (a punch) so obviously that one's opponent has ample time to avoid it
(transitive) to give advance notice of (anything), esp unintentionally
(transitive) (Canadian, informal) to cast (votes) illegally by impersonating registered voters
Derived Forms
telegraphist (tɪˈlɛɡrəfɪst), telegrapher, noun
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 telegraph

1794, "semaphor apparatus" (hence the Telegraph Hill in many cities), literally "that which writes at a distance," from French télégraphe, from télé- "far" (from Greek tele-; see tele-) + -graphe (see -graphy). The signaling device had been invented in France in 1791 by the brothers Chappe, who had called it tachygraphe, literally "that which writes fast," but the better name was suggested to them by French diplomat Comte André-François Miot de Mélito (1762-1841). First applied 1797 to an experimental electric telegraph (designed by Dr. Don Francisco Salva at Barcelona); the practical version was developed 1830s by Samuel Morse.


1805, from telegraph (n.). Figurative meaning "to signal one's intentions" is first attested 1925, originally in boxing. Related: Telegraphed; telegraphing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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telegraph in Science
A communications system in which a message in the form of short, rapid electric impulses is sent, either by wire or radio, to a receiving station. Morse code is often used to encode messages in a form that is easily transmitted through electric impulses.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for telegraph



To signal one's intentions, often inadvertently: The tone of her voice telegraphed it (1925+)

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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