to name, write, or otherwise give the letters, in order, of (a word, syllable, etc.): Did I spell your name right?
(of letters) to form (a word, syllable, etc.): The letters spelled a rather rude word.
to read letter by letter or with difficulty (often followed by out): She painfully spelled out the message.
to discern or find, as if by reading or study (often followed by out).
to signify; amount to: This delay spells disaster for us.
to name, write, or give the letters of words, syllables, etc.: He spells poorly.
to express words by letters, especially correctly.
spell down, to outspell others in a spelling match.
to explain something explicitly, so that the meaning is unmistakable: Must I spell it out for you?
to write out in full or enumerate the letters of which a word is composed: The title “Ph.D.” is seldom spelled out.
- spell·a·ble, adjective
- un·spell·a·ble, adjective
Other definitions for spell (2 of 3)
- spellful, adjective
- spell-like, adjective
Other definitions for spell (3 of 3)
a continuous course or period of work or other activity: to take a spell at the wheel.
a turn of work so taken.
a turn, bout, fit, or period of anything experienced or occurring: a spell of coughing.
an indefinite interval or space of time: Come visit us for a spell.
a period of weather of a specified kind: a hot spell.
Australian. a rest period.
Archaic. a person or set of persons taking a turn of work to relieve another.
to take the place of for a time; relieve: Let me spell you at the wheel.
Australian. to declare or give a rest period to.
Australian. to have or take a rest period.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023
How to use spell in a sentence
He said everything — community health data, facility preparedness, the staffing situation — spells a return to in-person instruction.Alexandria City Public Schools sets date for reopening; Arlington refuses to follow suit | Hannah Natanson | February 5, 2021 | Washington Post
Thus, many educators reasonably teach a small set of high-frequency, irregularly spelled words as special cases.Is there really a ‘science of reading’ that tells us exactly how to teach kids to read? | Valerie Strauss | January 26, 2021 | Washington Post
Married for a spell to Ellen Barkin, he’s made a few appearances in the tabloids, too.Gabriel Byrne’s ‘Walking with Ghosts’ is a revelation in unexpected ways | Keith Donohue | January 12, 2021 | Washington Post
The rise in demand for flexible office space could also spell a future for repurposed storefronts.Welcome to the ground floor: street-level offices for a post-pandemic world | Jessica Davies | January 11, 2021 | Digiday
I have no doubt Icahn knows all the numbers, but he appears to rely on instincts that tell him, I’ve seen this scenario before, and it always spells trouble.Investing legends Carl Icahn and Jeremy Grantham see a stock market bubble | Shawn Tully | January 8, 2021 | Fortune
“Then I learned he can't spell and is a manager at a CPK,” she said.
After my crying spell stopped, I gritted my teeth, tucked my crutch under my right arm, and turned to my husband.
In order to break the spell and bear children, they must collect four items from the mysterious woods.Anna Kendrick on Feminism, #GamerGate, and the Celebrity Hacking Attack | Marlow Stern | November 25, 2014 | THE DAILY BEAST
A personal favorite is “C Is For Cookie” for guiding me through a 1994 playground debate over how to spell the word.
Unless Spotify can figure out how to better pay artists and develop exclusive deals, this could easily spell the end for them.Taylor Swift Dumps Spotify, Igniting Turf War Between Spotify and Apple | Dale Eisinger | November 4, 2014 | THE DAILY BEAST
Finally he shook himself free from the dreamy spell of the place, and turned his face southward again.Ramona | Helen Hunt Jackson
"I just happened to be passin' and thought I'd drop in for a spell," he said, with a profound bow to Mary, who arose to greet him.The Soldier of the Valley | Nelson Lloyd
Her quiet eyes, held by his during the spell that had bound them speechless, did not flinch at the breaking of it.Uncanny Tales | Various
Aristide prayed that some Thaïs might come along, cast her spell upon him, and induce him to wink.The Joyous Adventures of Aristide Pujol | William J. Locke
After the first short spell of shelling our men fixed bayonets and lifted them high above the parapet.Gallipoli Diary, Volume I | Ian Hamilton
British Dictionary definitions for spell (1 of 3)
to write or name in correct order the letters that comprise the conventionally accepted form of (a word or part of a word)
(tr) (of letters) to go to make up the conventionally established form of (a word) when arranged correctly: d-o-g spells dog
(tr) to indicate or signify: such actions spell disaster for our cause
- See also spell out
- spellable, adjective
British Dictionary definitions for spell (2 of 3)
a verbal formula considered as having magical force
any influence that can control the mind or character; fascination
a state induced by or as if by the pronouncing of a spell; trance: to break the spell
under a spell held in or as if in a spell
(tr) rare to place under a spell
British Dictionary definitions for spell (3 of 3)
an indeterminate, usually short, period of time: a spell of cold weather
a period or tour of duty after which one person or group relieves another
Scot, Australian and NZ a period or interval of rest
(tr) to take over from (a person) for an interval of time; relieve temporarily
spell a paddock NZ to give a field a rest period by letting it lie fallow
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
Other Idioms and Phrases with spell
In addition to the idiom beginning with spell
- spell out
- cold snap (spell)
- under someone's spell
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.