There are 4 main definitions of spell in English:

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spell1

Syllabification: spell
Pronunciation: /spel
 
/

verb (past and past participle spelled /speld/ or chiefly British spelt /spelt/)

[with object]
1Write or name the letters that form (a word) in correct sequence: Dolly spelled her name [no object]: journals have a house style about how to spell
More example sentences
  • Several immigrants didn't know how to write or spell their own names, so immigration inspectors created one for them.
  • The first twenty pages of my first book are filled with nothing but hundreds of attempts to learn to write and spell my name.
  • Did you make sure you spelt my name correctly?
1.1(Of letters) make up or form (a word): the letters spell the word “how.”
More example sentences
  • The first team to lose five hands, thus getting five letters spelling the whole word K-E-M-P-S loses the game.
  • I've thought of writing a poem, with the first letter of each word spelling my email, but my attempts so far are not likely to get a reply.
  • The participants classified the target by pressing one key if the letter string spelled a word they knew, and another key if it did not.
1.2Be recognizable as a sign or characteristic of: she had the chic, efficient look that spells Milan
1.3Lead to: the plans would spell disaster for the economy
More example sentences
  • Failure to resolve this last issue quickly and effectively would have spelled disaster for the plan.
  • The variable that promised to spell disaster for Iowa farmers was the high seed costs associated with GM crops.
  • For everyone else, however, it spells disaster.
Synonyms

Origin

Middle English: shortening of Old French espeller, from the Germanic base of spell2.

More
  • In Old English spel meant ‘story, speech’, a sense still hidden in the word gospel. By the late 16th century this had become the right speech to use when invoking magic powers, via the late Middle English nightspell, special words to protect you at night. Meanwhile the verb had developed from ‘speak, tell’ to read out loud with difficulty, or ‘spell out’ words, and from this the sense to use the right letters in a word.

Phrasal verbs

spell something out

1
Speak the letters that form a word in sequence.
Example sentences
  • I was communicating by spelling things out on a letter board.
  • At this rate, I would be surprised if she started spelling the words out for us.
  • Sarah practically spelled the words out to him and he showed no signs of knowing what the hell she was talking about.
1.1Explain something in detail: I’ll spell out the problem again
More example sentences
  • He said his plans will be spelled out in more detail in the strategy he will present to the EU later this week.
  • One area where costs are spelled out in detail is that of executive salary packages.
  • The details of the agreement will be spelled out in a contract.
Synonyms
explain, make clear, make plain, elucidate, clarify;
specify, itemize, detail, enumerate, list, expound, particularize, catalog

Derivatives

spellable

1
adjective
Example sentences
  • "I felt it was a spellable word," Liam said, after emerging from the spelling bee's famous "comfort room".
  • A spellable, pronounceable name that gets a positive reaction from the people you admire remains your safest naming bet.
  • They are all very spellable words. You just probably haven't heard them before.

Definition of spell in:

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There are 4 main definitions of spell in English:

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spell2

Syllabification: spell
Pronunciation: /spel
 
/

noun

1A form of words used as a magical charm or incantation.
Example sentences
  • It wasn't quite the same as when a sorcerer used high level spells, but the words were still unintelligible.
  • Taukat showed his agreement by muttering the words of a spell and conjuring a cloud of acid rain over the unsuspecting targets.
  • Kyri was mumbling the words to a spell which she finished by laying her hand on Aikel's arm.
Synonyms
incantation, charm, conjuration, formula;
(spells)magic, sorcery, witchcraft, hex, curse
1.1A state of enchantment caused by a magic spell: the magician may cast a spell on himself
More example sentences
  • I quickly cast a spell on my rod, blazing the magic back to the Shadow.
  • But before he took the last step that brought him to the old man's domain, Cale had paid a half-demon sorceress to cast a spell on him.
  • My mother died shortly after I became ten, I'm not sure what disease she had acquired, but I think Giselle must have cast a spell on her.
1.2An ability to control or influence people as though one had magical power over them: she is afraid that you are waking from her spell
More example sentences
  • Only a ponderous blues lead by shaven headed bass player John Power temporarily broke the spell.
  • When you're in the culture and you're living it day to day, living in Brooklyn, South Central or Oakland, you are under the spell of that cultural influence.
  • Men often fall under the spell of the power of the boob.
Synonyms
influence, (animal) magnetism, charisma, allure, lure, charm, attraction, enticement;
magic, romance, mystique

Origin

Old English spel(l) 'narration', of Germanic origin.

More
  • In Old English spel meant ‘story, speech’, a sense still hidden in the word gospel. By the late 16th century this had become the right speech to use when invoking magic powers, via the late Middle English nightspell, special words to protect you at night. Meanwhile the verb had developed from ‘speak, tell’ to read out loud with difficulty, or ‘spell out’ words, and from this the sense to use the right letters in a word.

Phrases

under a spell

1
Not fully in control of one’s thoughts and actions, as though in a state of enchantment.
Example sentences
  • I felt like I was under a spell, and could no longer control my body.
  • I don't want to say under a spell, that seems trite.
  • On stage he comes alive and places the audience under a spell; outside of it, he works fiercely with a number of charities and human rights organisations.

under someone's spell

2
So devoted to someone that they seem to have magic power over one.
Example sentences
  • He has some sort of magic that puts me under his spell.
  • She was under his spell; mesmerized by his eyes and his voice and, most of all, by his touch.
  • He was so sure of himself and his power to seduce that it was hard not to fall under his spell, not that I wasn't a willing participant.

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There are 4 main definitions of spell in English:

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spell3

Syllabification: spell
Pronunciation: /spel
 
/

noun

1A short period: I want to get away from racing for a spell
More example sentences
  • Paul took up the post of County Accountant in the mid-Seventies, leaving for a short spell, only to return to take up the post of Finance Officer.
  • However, he was married for a short spell while he was living in County Kerry.
  • They merely took advantage of it for short spells while unable to obtain other work.
Synonyms
1.1A period spent in an activity: a spell of greenhouse work
More example sentences
  • A spell of hectic activity around the Stradbally area resulted in Mick Haughney setting up Garry Powell to equalise, in the 80 minute.
  • Then look at the couch potato who seems ready, not for an evening in front of the TV, but for a spell of inadvertent train spotting.
  • Leaving school at 13 he did the round of reform schools after a spell of teenage misdemeanours.
1.2A period of a specified kind of weather: an early cold spell in autumn
More example sentences
  • During this very cold spell of weather, parishioners are asked to be a good neighbour and call in and keep an eye on senior citizens, especially those living alone in the parish.
  • Despite being in the middle of fall, New York City had taken to a spell of cold weather that threatened to bring snow early.
  • During this current cold spell of weather do check on your neighbour - you may be in a position to help them in some small way.
1.3A period of suffering from a specified kind of illness: she plunges off a yacht and suffers a spell of amnesia
More example sentences
  • Your hospital insurance provides 60 days of fully covered hospital care, per spell of illness, after you have met a deductible.
  • Sadly however Paddy has passed away last week after a spell of illness and will join his brother in that Lilywhite stand in the sky for Sundays Leinster final.
  • He tirelessly promotes and fund raises for the club and despite a spell of serious illness, remained involved and totally dedicated.
Synonyms
bout, fit, attack
1.4Australian A period of rest from work.
Example sentences
  • This spell from the action may well bring the front runners back to the field.
  • Just before this we had an hour's spell so we would be fresh.

verb

[with object] chiefly North American Back to top  
1Allow (someone) to rest briefly by taking their place in some activity: I got sleepy and needed her to spell me for a while at the wheel
More example sentences
  • People begged him to seek help, admonished him for being stubborn, for his refusal to bring in others to spell him, for his refusal ever to leave her side.
1.1 [no object] Australian Take a brief rest: I’ll spell for a bit

Origin

late 16th century: variant of dialect spele 'take the place of', of unknown origin. The early sense of the noun was 'shift of relief workers'.

More
  • In Old English spel meant ‘story, speech’, a sense still hidden in the word gospel. By the late 16th century this had become the right speech to use when invoking magic powers, via the late Middle English nightspell, special words to protect you at night. Meanwhile the verb had developed from ‘speak, tell’ to read out loud with difficulty, or ‘spell out’ words, and from this the sense to use the right letters in a word.

Definition of spell in:

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There are 4 main definitions of spell in English:

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spell4

Line breaks: spell

Entry from British & World English dictionary

noun

A splinter of wood.

Origin

late Middle English: perhaps a variant of obsolete speld 'chip, splinter'.

More
  • In Old English spel meant ‘story, speech’, a sense still hidden in the word gospel. By the late 16th century this had become the right speech to use when invoking magic powers, via the late Middle English nightspell, special words to protect you at night. Meanwhile the verb had developed from ‘speak, tell’ to read out loud with difficulty, or ‘spell out’ words, and from this the sense to use the right letters in a word.

Definition of spell in:

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