di·​al | \ˈdī(-ə)l \

Definition of dial 

(Entry 1 of 3)

1 : the face of a sundial

2 obsolete : timepiece

3 : the graduated face of a timepiece

4a : a face upon which some measurement is registered usually by means of graduations and a pointer the thermometer dial reads 70°F

b : a device that may be operated to make electrical connections or to regulate the operation of a machine a radio dial a telephone dial


dialed or dialled; dialing or dialling

Definition of dial (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : to measure with a dial

2a : to manipulate a device (such as a dial) so as to operate, regulate, or select dial your favorite program dialed the wrong number

b : call sense 1m(1) dialed the office

intransitive verb

1 : to manipulate a dial

2 : to make a telephone call or connection

Definition of dial (Entry 3 of 3)

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from dial


dialer noun

Synonyms for dial

Synonyms: Verb

call, phone, ring (up) [chiefly British], telephone

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of dial in a Sentence


the dial of a pressure gauge I had to keep adjusting the radio dial to make the station come in clearly.


I'm sorry. I must have dialed the wrong number. dialed 911 and asked for the police
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The spring expands as the oven heats up and moves the pointer on the face of the dial until the oven is the proper temperature. Francine Maroukian, Popular Mechanics, "The Only Meat Thermometer Any Serious Person Needs," 29 Oct. 2018 Drivers can also opt in for a harder workout via a rotary dial that controls the pedal resistance. Dom Tripolone, Fox News, "Bike pedal-operated Audi burns calories as you drive," 27 Sep. 2018 Back in 2003, there was no such thing as an iPhone, people had dial-up internet and got their music news from TRL, and everyone preferred AOL Instant Messenger to texting. Kara Nesvig, Teen Vogue, "Hilary Duff's Hit "So Yesterday" Was Released 15 Years Ago," 16 July 2018 My selections didn't always register when trying to tweak the settings using the controls on the left side of the steering wheel by pressing down on the appropriate part of the dial. Eric Bangeman, Ars Technica, "All SUV, all of the time: The Range Rover Sport reviewed," 12 July 2018 National and international commercial dial-up services, including America Online, Genie, Prodigy, and CompuServe did not connect with the noncommercial internet until 1994. Nancy Baym, WIRED, "Book Excerpt: How Music Fans Built the Internet," 10 July 2018 James got his necessary backing in the third quarter as the Cavs turned the dial up on defense and stretched the floor. Michael Singer, USA TODAY, "Cavs needed signature performance from LeBron James in Game 5, and he delivered," 26 Apr. 2018 And the Eagles winning a Super Bowl with a backup QB when the Cowboys haven't been to one since dial-up internet was common? Greg Rajan, Houston Chronicle, "Why Texans fans should root for the Eagles in Super Bowl LII," 31 Jan. 2018 The rest of the broadcast dial surrendered another Tuesday to NBC last night. Michael O'connell, The Hollywood Reporter, "TV Ratings: NBC Posts Huge Advantage on Tuesday," 27 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

When a switch flips, the bacterial cyborg would then secrete antioxidants and molecules that dial down the immune system’s inflammatory response. Eric Smalley, Discover Magazine, "Cellular Cyborgs: How Programmable DNA Strands Might Control Healing," 25 Sep. 2018 Panic ensued as the bouncer hung up on my dad to dial. Scout Maceachron, Seventeen, "I Got Drunk at Prom and Humiliated Myself in Front of the Entire Class," 18 June 2015 After earning a 6-5 win in the morning game, Lindley said the Slammers took some time to dial down in their home clubhouse before hopping on the bus, arriving at Standard Bank Stadium about 90 minutes before first pitch for the second game. Steve Millar, Daily Southtown, "Long day's journey into night: London Lindley, Slammers finish unusual sweep of ThunderBolts," 21 June 2018 Having hit only three career home runs coming into this season, Larnach dialed up the power in 2018 and has launched 15 so far in 2018. OregonLive.com, "MLB mock drafts 2018: Oregon State Beavers' Nick Madrigal, Trevor Larnach pegged as 1st-round picks," 4 June 2018 Taking the cue, Gingrich won his first of many Congressional races in 1978 by dialing down his environmental rhetoric and cozying up to local industries that had run afoul of the new agencies and laws. Christopher Sellers, Vox, "How Republicans came to embrace anti-environmentalism," 6 July 2018 Crisis intervention can be reached by dialing 2-1-1, by texting your concerns and zip code to 898-211, or by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK), which will connect a caller to the regional 211 staff. Larry Barszewski, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Tri-Rail begins campaign to end suicides on railway tracks," 5 July 2018 Start by dialing the focus about half way then try some exposures with the lens focused as close as possible. Emily Price, Popular Mechanics, "How to Capture Perfect Fireworks Photos," 3 July 2018 In a statement, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser said residents can get information about emergency heat services by dialing 311 or visiting heat.dc.gov. Justin Wm. Moyer, Washington Post, "D. C. activates emergency heat plan as temperatures soar," 18 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'dial.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of dial


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1653, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for dial


Middle English dyal, from Medieval Latin dialis clock wheel revolving daily, from Latin dies day — more at deity

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about dial

Statistics for dial

Last Updated

14 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for dial

The first known use of dial was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for dial



English Language Learners Definition of dial

: to select (a series of numbers) on a telephone by turning a dial or pushing buttons

: to make a telephone call to (a person, business, etc.)


di·​al | \ˈdī-əl \

Kids Definition of dial

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the face of a watch or clock

2 : sundial

3 : a usually flat round part of a piece of equipment with numbers or marks to show some measurement usually by means of a pointer the dial of a pressure gauge

4 : a part of a machine or device (as a radio) that may be turned to operate or adjust it


dialed or dialled; dialing or dialling

Kids Definition of dial (Entry 2 of 2)

: to use a knob, button, or other control to operate or select

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on dial

What made you want to look up dial? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something that serves to warn or remind

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Vocab Quiz

  • the-education-of-achilles-eugne-delacroix
  • Which is a synonym of discomfit?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!