- 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.
- spell out,
- 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.
Origin of spell1
SynonymsSee more synonyms for spell on Thesaurus.com
- 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 spell2
- 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.
Origin of spell3
SynonymsSee more synonyms for spell on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for spell
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
November 25, 2014
A personal favorite is “C Is For Cookie” for guiding me through a 1994 playground debate over how to spell the word.‘Sesame Street’ Is Middle-Aged and Awesome
November 10, 2014
It features a young girl at a spelling bee who is asked to spell “Hagan.”In North Carolina, GOP Overreach May Be More Unpopular Than Obama
November 3, 2014
Suffice it to say that Radcliffe put an Avada Kedavra spell on the song, because he absolutely killed it!Harry Potter Raps, The Catcalls Heard ‘Round the World and More Viral Videos
November 2, 2014
As a dyslexic,” he said, “the spell checker has transformed my life.We All Have a Rosebud in Our Pasts
October 15, 2014
That's his last dodge; I've seen the spell coming on, for some time.Ester Ried Yet Speaking
We could see the smile working on White Quiver like a spell.The Trail Book
She leaned towards me, and beauty breathed about her as a spell.
Her spell had no effect on the god, who at once cast his net over her.The Babylonian Legends of the Creation
He was as if under a spell, and his dark, strong face glowed with the magic of it.
- 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
- 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
- (tr) rare to place under a spell
- 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
- (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 and History for spell
"name the letters of," Old English spellian "to tell, speak," infl. by Old French espeller "declare, spell," from Frankish *spellon "to tell;" both Old English and Frankish from Proto-Germanic *spellan (cf. Old High German spellon "to tell," Old Norse spjalla, Gothic spillon "to talk, tell"), from PIE *spel- "to say aloud, recite." Related: Spelled; spelling.
Meaning "write or say the letters of a word" is c.1400, from notion of "read letter by letter, read with difficulty" (c.1300). Spell out "explain step-by-step" is first recorded 1940, American English. Spelling bee is from 1878 (earlier simply spelling, 1860).
"incantation, charm," Old English spell "story, speech," from Proto-Germanic *spellan (cf. Old Norse spjall, Old High German spel, Gothic spill "report, discourse, tale;" German Beispiel "example;" see spell (v.1)). Meaning "set of words with magical powers, incantation, charm" first recorded 1570s.
The term 'spell' is generally used for magical procedures which cause harm, or force people to do something against their will -- unlike charms for healing, protection, etc. ["Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore"]
"work in place of (another)," Old English spelian "to take the place of," related to gespelia "substitute," of uncertain origin. Perhaps related to spilian "to play" (see spiel). Related: Spelled; spelling. The noun meaning "indefinite period of time" first recorded 1706.
Idioms and Phrases with spell
In addition to the idiom beginning with spell
- spell out
- cold snap (spell)
- under someone's spell