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 formsspell·a·ble, adjectiveun·spell·a·ble, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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)

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 Formsspellable, 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)

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 out (4 of 4)

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 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


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.