WATCH NOW: What Does The Word "Calling" Actually Mean?

WATCH NOW: What Does The Word "Calling" Actually Mean?

It's probably wise to listen to our callings. Sometimes they're loud—like someone calling our name—or sometimes they're much more subtle, like that little voice in our head telling us “this is what we’re meant to do.”



the act of a person or thing that calls.
vocation, profession, or trade: What is your calling?
a call or summons: He had a calling to join the church.
a strong impulse or inclination: She did it in response to an inner calling.
a convocation: the calling of Congress.

Nearby words

  1. callicrates,
  2. calligraph,
  3. calligrapher,
  4. calligraphy,
  5. callimachus,
  6. calling card,
  7. calliope,
  8. calliopean,
  9. calliopsis,
  10. callipash

Origin of calling

Middle English word dating back to 1200–50; see origin at call, -ing1



verb (used with object)

to cry out in a loud voice; shout: He called her name to see if she was home.
to command or request to come; summon: to call a dog; to call a cab; to call a witness.
to ask or invite to come: Will you call the family to dinner?
to communicate or try to communicate with by telephone: Call me when you arrive.
to rouse from sleep, as by a call; waken: Call me at eight o'clock.
to read over (a roll or a list) in a loud voice.
to convoke or convene: to call Congress into session.
to announce authoritatively; proclaim: to call a halt.
to order into effect; establish: to call a strike.
to schedule: to call a rehearsal.
to summon by or as if by divine command: He felt called to the ministry.
to summon to an office, duty, etc.: His country called him to the colors.
to cause to come; bring: to call to mind; to call into existence.
to bring under consideration or discussion: The judge called the case to court.
to attract or lure (birds or animals) by imitating characteristic sounds.
to direct or attract (attention): He called his roommate's attention to the mess.
to name or address (someone) as: His parents named him James, but the boys call him Jim.
to designate as something specified: He called me a liar.
to think of as something specified; consider; estimate: I call that a mean remark.
to demand of (someone) that he or she fulfill a promise, furnish evidence for a statement, etc.: They called him on his story.
to criticize adversely; express disapproval of; censure (often followed by out): She called him on his vulgar language.
to demand payment or fulfillment of (a loan).
to demand presentation of (bonds) for redemption.
to forecast correctly: He has called the outcome of the last three elections.
Sports. (of an official)
  1. to pronounce a judgment on (a shot, pitch, batter, etc.): The umpire called the pitch a strike.
  2. to put an end to (a contest) because of inclement weather, poor field conditions, etc.: A sudden downpour forced the umpire to call the game.
Pool. to name (the ball) one intends to drive into a particular pocket.
(in a computer program) to transfer control of to a procedure or subroutine.
  1. to demand (a card).
  2. to demand the display of a hand by (a player).
  3. equal (a bet) or equal the bet made by (the preceding bettor) in a round.
  4. signal one's partner for a lead of (a certain card or suit).

verb (used without object)

to speak loudly, as to attract attention; shout; cry: She called to the children.
to make a short visit; stop at a place on some errand or business: She called at the store for the package.
to telephone or try to telephone a person: He promised to call at noon.
  1. to demand a card.
  2. to demand a showing of hands.
  3. equal a bet.
  4. bid or pass.
(of a bird or animal) to utter its characteristic cry.


a cry or shout.
the cry or vocal sound of a bird or other animal.
an instrument for imitating this cry and attracting or luring an animal: He bought a duck call.
an act or instance of telephoning: She went into the next room to place her call.
a short visit: to make a call on someone.
a summons or signal sounded by a bugle, bell, etc.: We live so close to the fort that we can hear the bugle calls.
a summons, invitation, or bidding: The students gathered at the call of the dean.
a calling of a roll; roll call.
the fascination or appeal of a given place, vocation, etc.: the call of the sea.
a mystic experience of divine appointment to a vocation or service: He had a call to become a minister.
a request or invitation to become pastor of a church, a professor in a university, etc.
a need or occasion: He had no call to say such outrageous things.
a demand or claim: to make a call on a person's time.
a demand for payment of an obligation, especially where payment is at the option of the creditor.
  1. a demand for a card or a showing of hands.
  2. equaling of the preceding bet.
  3. Bridge.a bid or pass.
Sports. a judgment or decision by an umpire, a referee, or other official of a contest, as on a shot, pitch, or batter: The referees were making one bad call after another.
  1. a notice of rehearsal posted by the stage manager.
  2. act call.
  3. curtain call.
Dance. a figure or direction in square dancing, announced to the dancers by the caller.
Also called call option. Finance. an option that gives the right to buy a fixed amount of a particular stock at a predetermined price within a given period of time, purchased by a person who believes the price will rise.Compare put(def 24).
Fox Hunting. any of several cries, or sounds made on a horn by the hunter to encourage the hounds.

Verb Phrases

call away, to cause to leave or go; summon: A death in the family called him away.
call back,
  1. to summon or bring back; recall: He called back the messenger. The actor was called back for a second audition.
  2. to revoke; retract: to call back an accusation.
call down,
  1. to request or pray for; invoke: to call down the wrath of God.
  2. to reprimand; scold: The boss called us down for lateness.
call for,
  1. to go or come to get; pick up; fetch.
  2. to request; summon.
  3. to require; demand; need: The occasion calls for a cool head.
call forth, to summon into action; bring into existence: to call forth her courage and resolve.
call in,
  1. to call for payment; collect.
  2. to withdraw from circulation: to call in gold certificates.
  3. to call upon for consultation; ask for help: Two specialists were called in to assist in the operation.
  4. to inform or report by telephone: Did he call in his decision this morning?
  5. to participate in a radio or television program by telephone.
call in/into question. question(def 17).
call off,
  1. to distract; take away: Please call off your dog.
  2. to cancel (something) that had been planned for a certain date: The performance was called off because of rain.
call on/upon,
  1. to ask; appeal to: They called on him to represent them.
  2. to visit for a short time: to call on friends.
call out,
  1. to speak in a loud voice; shout.
  2. to summon into service or action: Call out the militia!
  3. to bring out; elicit: The emergency called out her hidden abilities.
  4. to direct attention to with a callout: to call out each detail in an illustration.
  5. challenge to a fight.
call up,
  1. to bring forward for consideration or discussion.
  2. to cause to remember; evoke.
  3. to communicate or try to communicate with by telephone.
  4. to summon for action or service: A large number of Army reservists were called up.
  5. summon (information) from a computer system for display on a video screen: She called up the full text.

Origin of call

1200–50; late Middle English callen, probably < Old Norse kalla to call out, conflated with Old English (West Saxon) ceallian to shout; cognate with Middle Dutch kallen to talk, Old High German kallôn to shout, akin to Old English -calla herald, Irish gall swan, OCS glasŭ voice

Related formsun·called, adjectivewell-called, adjective

Can be confusedcall caul cull

Synonym study

2, 3, 12. Call, invite, summon imply requesting the presence or attendance of someone at a particular place. Call is the general word: to call a meeting. To invite is to ask someone courteously to come as a guest, a participant, etc., leaving the person free to refuse: to invite guests to a concert; to invite them to contribute to a fund. Summon implies sending for someone, using authority or formality in making the request and (theoretically) not leaving the person free to refuse: to summon a witness, members of a committee, etc. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for calling

British Dictionary definitions for calling



a strong inner urge to follow an occupation, etc; vocation
an occupation, profession, or trade



(often foll by out) to speak or utter (words, sounds, etc) loudly so as to attract attentionhe called out her name
(tr) to ask or order to cometo call a policeman
(intr sometimes foll by on) to make a visit (to)she called on him
(often foll by up) to telephone (a person)he called back at nine
(tr) to summon to a specific office, profession, etche was called to the ministry
(of animals or birds) to utter (a characteristic sound or cry)
(tr) to summon (a bird or animal) by imitating its cry
(tr) to name or stylethey called the dog Rover
(tr) to designatethey called him a coward
(tr) British dialect to speak ill of or scold
(tr) to regard in a specific wayI call it a foolish waste of time
(tr) to attract (attention)
(tr) to read (a list, register, etc) aloud to check for omissions or absentees
(when tr, usually foll by for) to give an order (for)to call a strike
(intr) to try to predict the result of tossing a coin
(tr) to awakenI was called early this morning
(tr) to cause to assembleto call a meeting
(tr) sport (of an umpire, referee, etc) to pass judgment upon (a shot, player, etc) with a call
(tr) Australian and NZ to broadcast a commentary on (a horse race or other sporting event)
(tr) to demand repayment of (a loan, redeemable bond, security, etc)
(tr often foll by up) accounting to demand payment of (a portion of a share issue not yet paid by subscribers)
(tr) British to award (a student at an Inn of Court) the degree of barrister (esp in the phrase call to the bar)
(tr) computing to transfer control to (a named subprogram)
(tr) poker to demand that (a player) expose his hand, after equalling his bet
(intr) bridge to make a bid
(in square-dancing) to call out (instructions) to the dancers
billiards to ask (a player) to say what kind of shot he will play or (of a player) to name his shot
(intr foll by for)
  1. to requirethis problem calls for study
  2. to come or go (for) in order to fetchI will call for my book later
(intr; foll by on or upon) to make an appeal or request (to)they called upon him to reply
(tr) to predict the outcome of an eventwe don't know yet if the plan has succeeded because it's too soon to call
call into being to create
call into play to begin to operate
call in question or call into question See question (def. 12)
call it a day to stop work or other activity
too close to call (of the outcome of a competition, election, match, etc) unable to be predicted
call to mind to remember or cause to be remembered


a cry or shout
the characteristic cry of a bird or animal
a device, such as a whistle, intended to imitate the cry of a bird or animal
a summons or invitation
a summons or signal sounded on a horn, bugle, etc
hunting any of several notes or patterns of notes, blown on a hunting horn as a signal
  1. an imitation of the characteristic cry of a wild animal or bird to lure it to the hunter
  2. an instrument for producing such an imitation
a short visitthe doctor made six calls this morning
an inner urge to some task or profession; vocation
allure or fascination, esp of a placethe call of the forest
British the summons to the bar of a student member of an Inn of Court
need, demand, or occasionthere is no call to shout; we don't get much call for stockings these days
demand or claim (esp in the phrase the call of duty)
theatre a notice to actors informing them of times of rehearsals
(in square dancing) an instruction to execute new figures
a conversation or a request for a connection by telephone
  1. a demand for repayment of a loan
  2. (as modifier)call money
  1. a demand for redeemable bonds or shares to be presented for repayment
  2. a demand for an instalment payment on the issue price of bonds or shares
billiards a demand to an opponent to say what kind of shot he will play
poker a demand for a hand or hands to be exposed
bridge a bid, or a player's turn to bid
a decision or judgmentit's your call
sport a decision of an umpire or referee regarding a shot, pitch, etc
Australian a broadcast commentary on a horse race or other sporting event
Also called: call option stock exchange an option to buy a stated amount of securities at a specified price during a specified periodCompare put (def. 20)
call for margin stock exchange a demand made by a stockbroker for partial payment of a client's debt due to decreasing value of the collateral
call of nature See nature (def. 16)
on call
  1. (of a loan, etc) repayable on demand
  2. available to be called for work outside normal working hours
within call within range; accessible

Word Origin for call

Old English ceallian; related to Old Norse kalla, Old High German kallōn, Old Slavonic glasǔ voice

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 calling
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with calling


In addition to the idioms beginning with call

  • call a halt
  • call a spade a spade
  • call back
  • call down
  • call for
  • call in
  • call in question
  • call in sick
  • call it a day
  • call it quits
  • call names
  • call of duty
  • call off
  • call of nature
  • call on
  • call one's own
  • call on the carpet
  • call out
  • call someone's bluff
  • call the shots
  • call the tune
  • call to account
  • call to mind
  • call to order
  • call up
  • call upon

also see:

  • above and beyond (the call of duty)
  • at someone's beck and call
  • close call
  • dressing (calling) down
  • no call for
  • on call
  • pay a call
  • pot calling the kettle black
  • too close to call
  • uncalled for
  • wake-up call
  • within call
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.