from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A graduated surface or face on which a measurement, such as speed, is indicated by a moving needle or pointer.
  • n. The face of a clock.
  • n. A sundial.
  • n. The panel or face on a radio or television receiver on which the frequencies or channels are indicated.
  • n. A movable control knob or other device on a radio or television receiver used to change the frequency.
  • n. A rotatable disk on a telephone with numbers and letters, used to signal the number to which a call is made.
  • transitive v. To measure with or as if with a dial.
  • transitive v. To point to, indicate, or register by means of a dial.
  • transitive v. To control or select by means of a dial: dial a radio station.
  • transitive v. To call (a party) on a telephone.
  • transitive v. To signal (a number) in making a telephone call: The program dials the number and then connects to the file server.
  • intransitive v. To use a dial.
  • intransitive v. To use a telephone.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A graduated, circular scale over which a needle moves to show a measurement (such as speed).
  • n. A clock face.
  • n. A sundial.
  • n. A panel on a radio etc showing wavelengths or channels; a knob that is turned to change the wavelength etc.
  • n. A disk with finger holes on a telephone; used to select the number to be called.
  • n. A person's face.
  • v. To measure or indicate something with a dial.
  • v. To control or select something with a dial
  • v. To select a number, or to call someone, on a telephone.
  • v. To use a dial or a telephone.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. An instrument, formerly much used for showing the time of day from the shadow of a style or gnomon on a graduated arc or surface; esp., a sundial; but there are lunar and astral dials. The style or gnomon is usually parallel to the earth's axis, but the dial plate may be either horizontal or vertical.
  • n. The graduated face of a timepiece, on which the time of day is shown by pointers or hands.
  • n. A miner's compass.
  • transitive v. To measure with a dial.
  • transitive v. To survey with a dial.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To measure with or as if with a dial; indicate upon or as if upon a dial.
  • In mining, to survey with the aid of the dial or miners' compass, as a mine or underground workings.
  • n. An instrument for indicating the hour of the day by means of a shadow thrown upon a graduated surface. For dials with a style or gnomon, see sun-dial; for portable dials, see ring-dial, poke-dial, and solarium.
  • n. The face of a clock or watch, upon which the hours and minutes are marked, and over which the hands move.
  • n. Hence A timepiece of any kind; a clock or watch.
  • n. Any plate or face on which a pointer or an index moves, marking revolutions, pressure, etc., according to the nature of the machinery of which it forms part: as, the dial of a steamgage, gas-meter, or telegraphic instrument.
  • n. In telegraphy and horology, an insulated stationary wheel exhibiting upon its face letters, numerals, or other characters.
  • n. The lettered or numbered face-plate of a permutation-lock.
  • n. A mariners' compass.
  • n. In mining, a compass or graduated circle with a magnetic needle, arranged for underground surveying where great accuracy is not required. [Eng.]
  • n. A lapidaries' instrument for holding a gem while it is being cut. It carries the dot to which the gem is directly fixed.
  • n. The commercial name for the best grade of kaurigum.
  • n. An abbreviation of dialect
  • n. of dialectal, dialectic, or dialectical.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the circular graduated indicator on various measuring instruments
  • n. a disc on a telephone that is rotated a fixed distance for each number called
  • v. operate a dial to select a telephone number
  • n. the control on a radio or television set that is used for tuning
  • v. choose by means of a dial
  • n. the face of a timepiece; graduated to show the hours


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Middle English, sundial, clock, from Old French dyal, from Medieval Latin diāle, from neuter of diālis, daily, from Latin diēs, day.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Its original meaning was 'sundial' and/or 'clock dial', from Latin diālis ("daily, concerning the day"), because of its use in telling the time of day.



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  • Stop this nonsense or I'll hang up.

    June 11, 2015

  • "A few of these terms do linger. On the list of “menu options” given me by a computerized answering service yesterday, I could dial 13 for one person, dial 12 for another, dial zero for assistance. Of course, I wasn’t dialing anything. Dialing was what I did in that Irish pub, four decades ago. But when someone’s not really on the job these days, we still speak of their dialing it in. What other language lingers, from those days of switchboards and pay phones? Indulge your nostalgia and let us know. The party line’s open."

    Lucy Ferriss (June 11, 2015) "Phoning Home, Lingua Franca: Language and writing in academe section, The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    June 11, 2015

  • Laid in reverse.

    July 22, 2007