Definition of dial in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈdī(ə)l/


1A face of a clock, watch, or sundial that is marked to show units of time.
Example sentences
  • The dial on your dive watch would send a Geiger counter into cardiac arrest.
  • Although described as a clock, the time-piece element - the tiny watch dial in the uppermost section - is its least significant feature.
  • When the watch dial is lit, the tick marks appear as lit jewels.
1.1A face or flat plate with a scale and pointer for showing measurements of weight, volume, pressure, compass direction, etc.
Example sentences
  • The old scale was analog, with a dial and a pointer that waggled a bit unless you stood perfectly still.
  • Most of the children are weighed, the smallest kicking and screaming as they are slipped into bags and suspended from scales, the dial sometimes barely registering their existence.
  • I stood on my new evil scales and the dial screamed 11 stone 7.
1.2A disk with numbered holes on a telephone, enabling someone to make a call by inserting a finger in each of the holes corresponding to the number to be called and turning the disk.
Example sentences
  • His finger swerves over the dial; the telephone is too slow.
  • When Caligari refuses to let Jane retrieve her car the next morning, she tries to call for help, but there's a lock on the telephone dial.
  • One shop had a telephone with a dial just like the one I remember us having when I was a kid.
1.3A plate or disk on a radio, stove, washing machine, or other piece of equipment that is tuned to select a wavelength or setting.
Example sentences
  • Turn the film speed dial from the ASA of the film you are using to the next highest film speed.
  • In disgust, Amy reaches over and twists the radio dial vigorously.
  • So saying, he touched the transmit button, and slowly turned the tuning dial.

verb (dials, dialing, dialed ; British dials, dialling, dialled)

[with object]
Call (a telephone number) by turning a disk with numbered holes or pressing a set of buttons: he dialed room service it took only a moment to dial in the numbers [no object]: company employees dial out from their office
More example sentences
  • The driver can dial telephone numbers directly by voice input or using controls on the steering wheel.
  • Just like on an old-fashioned phone, you pickup your telephone and dial the number of the person you wish to contact.
  • Grabbing the telephone and quickly dialing the phone number, he wondered why he hadn't thought of this sooner.

Phrasal verbs


dial something down

Adjust the control on an electrical device so as to reduce the level of sound, light, heat, etc., produced: after 15 minutes of frustration, someone on the stand took the hint and dialed down the music
More example sentences
  • The sound mix is quite strong in terms of dialogue and sound effects, but I felt like the music was dialed down a little too low in many scenes.
  • At times Ennio Morricone's pulsating score is dialed down a little too low in favor of capturing all of the sound design, but it's not a terrible trade.
  • Firefighters and other city workers went door to door, asking building managers to dial down the power.
informal1.1 Lessen the amount, intensity, or degree of a quality, factor, etc. he’s dialed down the rage that seems to permeate his other novels having read this review I think I will dial down my expectations a little
More example sentences
  • It's true that MTV has dialed down and almost eliminated its war coverage in recent weeks, returning to its party-all-the-time spring break programming.
  • It isn't the only big food company to react to the recession by dialing down new product development, which is expensive and risky.
  • We don't all have to start quoting scripture, we just have to dial down the mockery a notch.

dial in (or into)

Access a computer system or service remotely via a telephone line: there’s no need to dial in to see if you have mail remote workers or traveling employees can dial into the data network
More example sentences
  • So each time I dial in for mail and, perhaps, a little surf session, a meter starts back at the phone exchange and the pennies begin to tick away.
  • This address will normally change each time you dial in, which makes it hard for a hacker to identify your individual machine.
  • Once you dial in to your ISP, all you have to do is load whatever browser you want to use.

dial something in (or into)

Indicate or regulate by means of a dial: you’re expected to dial in volume and tone settings
More example sentences
  • As the day wore on I noticed we had to dial in more elevation and although we were still making consistent hits at 300 yards I suspected we had shot the barrel out.
  • You can dial in contrast, brightness, and individual RGB levels for the incoming signal from a PC's graphics card.
  • We also really liked being able to dial in different effects from the NSP engine depending on the type of audio material we were listening to.
3.1Include or add: the car has a lot of understeer dialed into the suspension
More example sentences
  • There's nothing basic or unrefined about the little hatchback, but the engineers have managed to dial in great dollops of fun.
  • Don't even think about stepping onto a glacier until you've dialed in these mountaineering skills.
  • Argue the point all you want, but virtually every modern car bar the hardest TVRs have understeer dialled in to safeguard the occupants.

dial up (or dial something up)

Access a computer system or service remotely via a telephone line: dialing up each time we want to use the Internet will become a thing of the past people do not have to pay for phone line calls every time they dial up to the internet plans to enable customers to dial up videos from their living room
More example sentences
  • Because the personal computer at home is permanently connected, there is no need to dial up for access.
  • I decided to dial up the new series, and much to my surprise, found myself hooked in a very short time, albeit confused from the outset because I hadn't seen the three hour miniseries.
  • Those which had firewall virus protection on their systems had beaten away the bug, but those without found their systems spontaneously rebooting every time they dialled up the Internet.

dial something up

Adjust the control on an electrical device so as to increase the level of sound, light, heat, etc., produced: even with everything dialed up to full, the audio output level was only moderate at best
More example sentences
  • The brightness and contrast controls operate on a 100-point scale, but the brightness control had no effect on the display's black level until we dialed it up past 65.
  • I developed a cramp in my thumb dialing the volume up and down to compensate for the uneven audio levels.
  • He could basically tune his guitar to the room, find out how the room responded to the amplifier, and dial it up so he could have maximum control of the feedback.
informal5.1 Increase the amount, intensity, or degree of a quality, factor, etc. the Raiders really dialed up the pressure in the second half
More example sentences
  • Gateway dialed up spending to more than $50 million as it seeks more users in the business market.
  • The troubled telco has hired a new president to dial up growth.
  • Yes, the action has been dialed up to a whole new level.


Middle English (denoting a mariner's compass): from medieval Latin diale 'clock dial', based on Latin dies 'day'.

  • The earliest senses of dial were ‘a mariner's compass’, ‘sundial’, and ‘the face of a clock or watch’—all round objects marked out with gradations. The old slang meaning ‘a person's face’ would have been suggested by the fact that faces are roundish. The word's immediate source was medieval Latin diale ‘clock dial’, which came from Latin dies ‘day’, also the source of diary (late 16th century). See also clock

Words that rhyme with dial

denial, espial, Lyall, mistrial, myall, Niall, phial, trial, vial, viol

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: di·al

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