spell

1
[ spel ]
/ spɛl /

verb (used with object), spelled or spelt, spell·ing.

verb (used without object), spelled or spelt, spell·ing.

to name, write, or give the letters of words, syllables, etc.: He spells poorly.
to express words by letters, especially correctly.

Verb Phrases

spell down, to outspell others in a spelling match.
spell out,
  1. to explain something explicitly, so that the meaning is unmistakable: Must I spell it out for you?
  2. to write out in full or enumerate the letters of which a word is composed: The title “Ph.D.” is seldom spelled out.

Origin of spell

1
1250–1300; Middle English spellen < Old French espeller < Germanic; compare Old English spellian to talk, announce (derivative of spell spell2), Old High German -spellōn, Old Norse spjalla, Gothic spillōn

Related forms

spell·a·ble, adjectiveun·spell·a·ble, adjective

Definition for spell (2 of 3)

spell

2
[ spel ]
/ spɛl /

noun

a word, phrase, or form of words supposed to have magic power; charm; incantation: The wizard cast a spell.
a state or period of enchantment: She was under a spell.
any dominating or irresistible influence; fascination: the spell of fine music.

Origin of spell

2
before 900; Middle English spell, Old English: discourse; cognate with Old High German spel, Old Norse spjall, Gothic spill tale; see spell1, gospel

Related forms

spell·ful, adjectivespell-like, adjective

Definition for spell (3 of 3)

spell

3
[ spel ]
/ spɛl /

noun

verb (used with object)

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.

verb (used without object)

Australian. to have or take a rest period.

Origin of spell

3
1585–95; (v.) alteration of earlier spele to stand instead of, relieve, spare, Middle English spelen, Old English spelian; akin to Old English spala, gespelia a substitute; (noun) akin to the v. (perhaps continuing Old English gespelia)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for spell

British Dictionary definitions for spell (1 of 3)

spell

1
/ (spɛl) /

verb spells, spelling, spelt or spelled

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 correctlyd-o-g spells dog
(tr) to indicate or signifysuch actions spell disaster for our cause
See also spell out

Derived Forms

spellable, adjective

Word Origin for spell

C13: from Old French espeller, of Germanic origin; related to Old Norse spialla to talk, Middle High German spellen

British Dictionary definitions for spell (2 of 3)

spell

2
/ (spɛl) /

noun

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; tranceto break the spell
under a spell held in or as if in a spell

verb

(tr) rare to place under a spell

Word Origin for spell

Old English spell speech; related to Old Norse spjall tale, Gothic spill, Old High German spel

British Dictionary definitions for spell (3 of 3)

spell

3
/ (spɛl) /

noun

an indeterminate, usually short, period of timea 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

verb

(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

Word Origin for spell

Old English spelian to take the place of, of obscure origin
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

Idioms and Phrases with spell

spell


In addition to the idiom beginning with spell

  • spell out

also see:

  • 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.