from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun An instrument that converts voice and other sound signals into a form that can be transmitted to remote locations and that receives and reconverts waves into sound signals.
  • intransitive verb To make or try to make a telephone connection with; place a call to.
  • intransitive verb To dial (a telephone number).
  • intransitive verb To transmit (a message, for example) by telephone.
  • intransitive verb To engage in communication by telephone.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • n
  • An interurban telephone system.
  • To communicate by telephone.
  • noun An instrument or apparatus for the transmission of sound to a distant point.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb To convey or announce by telephone.
  • noun (Physics) An instrument for reproducing sounds, especially articulate speech, at a distance.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun An electronic device used for two-way talking with other people (often shortened to phone).
  • verb To contact someone by dialing his or her telephone number; to make someone's telephone ring using one's own telephone.

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

  • verb get or try to get into communication (with someone) by telephone
  • noun transmitting speech at a distance
  • noun electronic equipment that converts sound into electrical signals that can be transmitted over distances and then converts received signals back into sounds


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

tele- + -phone. From French téléphone, from Ancient Greek τῆλε (tēle, "afar") + φωνή (phōnē, "voice, sound")


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  • This is my favorite part of the Century's definition:

    "When the instrument is used as a receiver, the pulsatory currents passed through the coil c cause the diaphragm d to vibrate and give out sounds, which are heard by putting p to the ear. Better results, however, are obtained by the use of a different form of transmitter, many varieties of which have been invented. In that most commonly used the motions of the diaphragm cause variations in the strength of a current flowing from a battery through the primary wire of an induction-coil. These variations cause corresponding induced currents to flow through the secondary wire, which is connected with the line. They are generally due to variations of resistance resulting from variations in pressure in carbon, as in Edison's transmitter (called carbon telephone), or in surface contact when hard carbon is used, as in Blake's transmitter."

    July 26, 2011

  • Excellent. The first sentence in particular is like a description of some retro-futuristic variation on the ouija board - which is actually how I've always thought of the telephone.

    July 28, 2011