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Electronic system for recording oral messages sent by telephone. Typically, the caller hears a prerecorded message and then has an opportunity to leave a message in return. The person called can then retrieve the message at a later time by entering specific codes on his or her telephone. Voice mail is distinguished from an answering machine by its ability to provide service to multiple phone lines and by the more sophisticated functions that it offers in addition to recording messages.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on voice mail, visit Britannica.com.