• synonyms


or el

See more synonyms for ell on Thesaurus.com
  1. an extension usually at right angles to one end of a building.
  2. elbow(def 5).
  3. something that is L-shaped.
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Origin of ell1

First recorded in 1765–75; a spelling of the letter name, or by shortening of elbow


  1. a former measure of length, varying in different countries: in England equal to 45 inches (114 cm).
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Origin of ell2

before 950; Middle English, Old English eln; cognate with Old Norse eln, Old High German elina, Gothic aleina, Latin ulna, Greek ōlénē. See elbow
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for ell

Historical Examples

  • At Lyons, material was sometimes sold for as much as six hundred francs an ell.

    The Dream

    Emile Zola

  • Gawd love you, guv'nor, they'd fight 'ell's blazes, them chaps would!

    Changing Winds

    St. John G. Ervine

  • The ell is used as a kitchen, dining-room and storehouse combined.

  • The room was a fairly large one, situated in an ell at the rear of the building.

    The Film of Fear

    Arnold Fredericks

  • Back of the main portion of the saloon was an ell, and it was in this ell that the fire had started.

    Cap'n Eri

    Joseph Crosby Lincoln

British Dictionary definitions for ell


  1. an obsolete unit of length equal to approximately 45 inches
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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


  1. an extension to a building, usually at right angles and located at one end
  2. a pipe fitting, pipe, or tube with a sharp right-angle bend
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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

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].
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type of building extension, 1773, American English; so called for resemblance to the shape of the alphabet letter.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper