[tel-i-graf, -grahf]


an apparatus, system, or process for transmitting messages or signals to a distant place, especially by means of an electric device consisting essentially of a sending instrument and a distant receiving instrument connected by a conducting wire or other communications channel.
Nautical. an apparatus, usually mechanical, for transmitting and receiving orders between the bridge of a ship and the engine room or some other part of the engineering department.
a telegraphic message.

verb (used with object)

verb (used without object)

to send a message by telegraph.

Origin of telegraph

< French télégraphe (1792) a kind of manual signaling device; see tele-1, -graph
Related formste·leg·ra·pher [tuh-leg-ruh-fer] /təˈlɛg rə fər/; especially British, te·leg·ra·phist, nounpre·tel·e·graph, adjectivere·tel·e·graph, verbun·tel·e·graphed, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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Contemporary Examples of telegraph

Historical Examples of telegraph

British Dictionary definitions for telegraph



  1. a device, system, or process by which information can be transmitted over a distance, esp using radio signals or coded electrical signals sent along a transmission line connected to a transmitting and a receiving instrument
  2. (as modifier)telegraph pole
a message transmitted by such a device, system, or process; telegram


to send a telegram to (a person or place); wire
(tr) to transmit or send by telegraph
(tr) boxing informal to prepare to deliver (a punch) so obviously that one's opponent has ample time to avoid it
(tr) to give advance notice of (anything), esp unintentionally
(tr) Canadian informal to cast (votes) illegally by impersonating registered voters
Derived Formstelegraphist (tɪˈlɛɡrəfɪst) or telegrapher, noun
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

Word Origin and History for telegraph

1794, "semaphor apparatus" (hence the Telegraph Hill in many cities), literally "that which writes at a distance," from French télégraphe, from télé- "far" (from Greek tele-; see tele-) + -graphe (see -graphy). The signaling device had been invented in France in 1791 by the brothers Chappe, who had called it tachygraphe, literally "that which writes fast," but the better name was suggested to them by French diplomat Comte André-François Miot de Mélito (1762-1841). First applied 1797 to an experimental electric telegraph (designed by Dr. Don Francisco Salva at Barcelona); the practical version was developed 1830s by Samuel Morse.


1805, from telegraph (n.). Figurative meaning "to signal one's intentions" is first attested 1925, originally in boxing. Related: Telegraphed; telegraphing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

telegraph in Science



A communications system in which a message in the form of short, rapid electric impulses is sent, either by wire or radio, to a receiving station. Morse code is often used to encode messages in a form that is easily transmitted through electric impulses.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.