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

OTHER WORDS FROM spell

spell·a·ble, adjectiveun·spell·a·ble, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

British Dictionary definitions for spell out (1 of 4)

spell out

verb (tr, adverb)

to make clear, distinct, or explicit; clarify in detaillet me spell out the implications
to read laboriously or with difficulty, working out each word letter by letter
to discern by study; puzzle out

British Dictionary definitions for spell out (2 of 4)

spell1
/ (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 of spell

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 out (3 of 4)

spell2
/ (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 out (4 of 4)

spell3
/ (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 out (1 of 2)

spell out

1

Make plain, clarify, as in We asked her to spell out her objectives. [c. 1940]

2

Read slowly and laboriously, as in He was only six but he managed to spell out the instructions. [Early 1800s]

3

Puzzle out, manage to understand with some effort, as in It took years before anyone could spell out the inscriptions on the Rosetta Stone. [Late 1600s] All three usages transfer spell in the sense of “proceed letter by letter.”

Idioms and Phrases with spell out (2 of 2)

spell

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.