Origin of dial

1400–50; late Middle English: instrument for telling time by the sun's shadow, presumably < Medieval Latin diālis daily (Latin di(ēs) day + -ālis -al1)
Related formsun·di·aled, adjectiveun·di·alled, adjective


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for dial

Contemporary Examples of dial

Historical Examples of dial

British Dictionary definitions for dial



the face of a watch, clock, chronometer, sundial, etc, marked with divisions representing units of time
the circular graduated disc of various measuring instruments
  1. the control on a radio or television set used to change the station or channel
  2. the panel on a radio on which the frequency, wavelength, or station is indicated by means of a pointer
a numbered disc on a telephone that is rotated a set distance for each digit of a number being called
a miner's compass for surveying in a mine
British a slang word for face (def. 1)

verb dials, dialling or dialled or US dials, dialing or dialed

to establish or try to establish a telephone connection with (a subscriber or his number) by operating the dial on a telephone
(tr) to indicate, measure, or operate with a dial
Derived Formsdialler, noun

Word Origin for dial

C14: from Medieval Latin diālis daily, from Latin diēs day


abbreviation for

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 dial

early 15c., "sundial," earlier "dial of a compass" (mid-14c.), apparently from Medieval Latin dialis "daily," from Latin dies "day" (see diurnal).

The word perhaps was abstracted from a phrase such as Medieval Latin rota dialis "daily wheel," and evolved to mean any round plate over which something rotates. Telephone sense is from 1879, which led to dial tone (1921), "the signal to begin dialing," which term soon might be the sole relic of the rotary phone.


1650s, "to work with aid of a dial or compass," from dial (n.). Telephone sense is from 1923. Related: Dialed; dialing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper