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

  • transitive v. To name or write in order the letters constituting (a word or part of a word).
  • transitive v. To constitute the letters of (a word): These letters spell animal.
  • transitive v. To add up to; signify: Their unwise investment could spell financial ruin.
  • intransitive v. To form words by means of letters.
  • spell down To defeat in a spelling bee.
  • spell out To make explicit and clear: asked him to spell out his objectives.
  • spell out To name or write in order the letters that constitute (a word or part of a word): spelled out my name.
  • n. A word or formula believed to have magic power.
  • n. A bewitched state; a trance.
  • n. A compelling attraction; charm or fascination: the spell of the theater.
  • transitive v. To put (someone) under a spell; bewitch.
  • n. A short, indefinite period of time.
  • n. Informal A period of weather of a particular kind: a dry spell.
  • n. One's turn at work.
  • n. A period of work; a shift.
  • n. Australian A period of rest.
  • n. Informal A period of physical or mental disorder or distress: a dizzy spell.
  • n. Informal A short distance.
  • transitive v. To relieve (someone) from work temporarily by taking a turn.
  • transitive v. To allow to rest a while.
  • intransitive v. To take turns working.
  • intransitive v. Australian To rest for a time from an activity.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An incantation with beneficial purposes
  • n. A splinter, usually of wood.
  • v. To work in place of (someone).
  • v. To rest (someone or something).

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A spelk, or splinter.
  • n. The relief of one person by another in any piece of work or watching; also, a turn at work which is carried on by one person or gang relieving another.
  • n. The time during which one person or gang works until relieved; hence, any relatively short period of time, whether a few hours, days, or weeks.
  • n. One of two or more persons or gangs who work by spells.
  • n. A gratuitous helping forward of another's work.
  • n. A story; a tale.
  • n. A stanza, verse, or phrase supposed to be endowed with magical power; an incantation; hence, any charm.
  • intransitive v. To form words with letters, esp. with the proper letters, either orally or in writing.
  • intransitive v. To study by noting characters; to gain knowledge or learn the meaning of anything, by study.
  • transitive v. To supply the place of for a time; to take the turn of, at work; to relieve.
  • transitive v. To tell; to relate; to teach.
  • transitive v. To put under the influence of a spell; to affect by a spell; to bewitch; to fascinate; to charm.
  • transitive v. To constitute; to measure.
  • transitive v. To tell or name in their proper order letters of, as a word; to write or print in order the letters of, esp. the proper letters; to form, as words, by correct orthography.
  • transitive v. To discover by characters or marks; to read with difficulty; -- usually with out

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To tell; relate; teach; disclose.
  • To act as a spell upon; entrance; enthrall; fascinate; charm.
  • To imbue with magic properties.
  • To tell; tell a story; give an account.
  • To tell or set forth letter by letter; set down letter by letter; tell the letters of; form by or in letters.
  • To read letter by letter, or with laborious effort; hence, to discover by careful study; make out point by point: often with out or orer.
  • To constitute, as letters constitute a word; make up.
  • To form words with the proper letters, in either reading or writing; repeat or set down the letters of words.
  • To make a study; engage in careful contemplation of something.
  • To take the place of (another person) temporarily in doing something; take turns with; relieve for a time; give a rest to.
  • n. A tale; story; narrative.
  • n. Speech; word of mouth; direct address.
  • n. A charm consisting of some words of supposed occult power; any form of words, whether written or spoken, supposed to be endowed with magical virtues; an incantation; hence, any means or cause of enchantment, literally or figuratively; a magical or an enthralling charm; a condition of enchantment; fascination; as, to cast a spell over a person; to be under a spell, or bound by a spell.
  • n. A turn of work or duty in place of another; an interval of relief by another person; an exchange of work and rest: as, to take one's regular spell; to work the pumps by spells.
  • n. Hence. A continuous course of employment in work or duty; a turn of occupation between periods of rest; a bout.
  • n. An interval of. rest or relaxation; a turn or period of relief from work; a resting-time.
  • n. Any interval of time within definite limits; an unbroken term or period.
  • n. A short period, indefinitely; an odd or occasional interval; an uncertain term; a while.
  • n. A bad turn; an uncomfortable time; a period of personal ailment or ill feeling.
  • n. A chip, splinter, or splint.
  • n. In the game of nur-and-spell, the steel spring by which the nur is thrown into the air.
  • n. One of the transverse pieces at the bottom of a chair which strengthen and keep together the legs.

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

  • v. write or name the letters that comprise the conventionally accepted form of (a word or part of a word)
  • v. relieve (someone) from work by taking a turn
  • n. a psychological state induced by (or as if induced by) a magical incantation
  • v. orally recite the letters of or give the spelling of
  • n. a verbal formula believed to have magical force
  • v. take turns working
  • v. indicate or signify
  • n. a time for working (after which you will be relieved by someone else)
  • n. a period of indeterminate length (usually short) marked by some action or condition
  • v. place under a spell


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

Middle English spellen, to read letter by letter, from Old French espeller, of Germanic origin.
Middle English, discourse, from Old English.
From Middle English spelen, to spare, from Old English spelian, to represent, substitute for.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old English spel, spellian, spelian, from Proto-Germanic *spellan, ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *spel- (“to tell”). Cognate with dialectal German Spill, spellen and Albanian fjalë ("word").

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old French espel(l)er ( > Modern French épeler), ultimately from Proto-Germanic *spel- (“to speak”).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Origin uncertain; perhaps a form of speld.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English spelen, from Old English spelian, akin to spala ("substitute").



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