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dial Syllabification: di·al
Pronunciation: /ˈdī(ə)l/

Definition of dial in English:


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] Back to top  
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
  • You can extend the battery life by dialling down the screen brightness.
  • I hadn't dialed down the exposure enough, so unfortunately I have 100 shots of a overexposed, featureless sun in front of a great desert framing.
  • A separate selector switch gives the option of having both lasers dialed down to "training" mode.
informal 1.1 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
  • The alcoholic content was duly dialled down, to near zero.
  • The chip makers have been quick to adapt, by dialing down the spud content in their recipes and cranking up the soy.
  • As you turn 40 and then 50 and eventually retire, the funds will gradually and automatically dial down the risk in your portfolio by buying more bonds.

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
  • We dialled into the Internet and went to AltaVista.
  • She found the password written on the first page of her phone book and dialed into the voice mail system.
  • Curious, I dialed into voicemail and played back the message.

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
  • After living with three kitchens in less than two years, I have dialed in many of my future kitchen's must-haves.
  • In addition, Toyota's engineers have dialed in a comfortable seatback angle, which means long trips in the back seats are enjoyable.
  • 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

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
informal 5.1 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
  • "Welcome to the world of grizzly bears," he would say, sometimes employing an Aussie accent, which he typically dialed up for women and children.
  • The New York creatives were asked to work up a print/outdoor campaign that would ‘dial up the cool factor’.
  • I'm positive the F1 veteran will progress quite nicely throughout the month and will qualify easily, but will he be able to dial up the aggression if necessary?


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

Definition of dial in:

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