di·​al | \ ˈdī(-ə)l How to pronounce dial (audio) \

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)

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Synonyms for dial

Synonyms: Verb

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Examples of dial in a Sentence

Noun the dial of a pressure gauge I had to keep adjusting the radio dial to make the station come in clearly. Verb I'm sorry. I must have dialed the wrong number. dialed 911 and asked for the police
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Alexandra and Mariamne continued to condescend to Herod and his family; meanwhile, Salome and Cypros turned up the dial on their intriguing, trying to undermine the Hasmoneans on every front. Anne Thériault, Longreads, "Queens of Infamy: Mariamne I," 18 Dec. 2019 The football world has gone from analog to digital overnight, and immobile, drop-back quarterbacks are the NFL’s answer to AOL on a dial-up modem. Los Angeles Times, "Chargers don’t need to get sexy, they need to get better. Here’s how they do it," 1 Jan. 2020 There’s no phone service, and the WiFi is reminiscent of dial-up. Danielle Braff, Houston Chronicle, "10 of the world's most beautiful places to unplug," 27 Dec. 2019 There’s no phone service, and the WiFi is reminiscent of dial-up. Danielle Braff, Washington Post, "Go phone-free in these 10 stunning accommodations, including pods attached to a mountain," 20 Dec. 2019 In the days of dial-up modems Americans, who were charged a flat rate for local calls, paid far less than Europeans to get online. The Economist, "Are anti-competitive firms killing American innovation?," 12 Dec. 2019 This was the days of bulletin boards and dial-up modems and everything else. David Gelles, New York Times, "How a Preacher’s Grandson From Rural Georgia Grew Up to Lead Cisco," 5 Dec. 2019 Cyber Monday is still holding up as the biggest online shopping day of the year, even though many of the same deals have been available online for weeks and the name harks back to the days of dial-up modems. chicagotribune.com, "Cyber Monday 2019 on track to set record," 2 Dec. 2019 And everyone connecting in the mid-90s through to the mid-2000s likely knew of the horror that was the dial-up modem connection sound. Mike Murphy, Quartz, "From dial-up to 5G: a complete guide to logging on to the internet," 29 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Researchers dialed down the default number of opioids in two hospitals' prescription systems—and doctors ended up prescribing fewer pills. Christopher Intagliata, Scientific American, "Docs Given Updated Opioid Habit," 26 Jan. 2020 At face value, the deal appears to dial down the risk of a wider trade war between the U.S. and the EU, of which France is part of. Washington Post, "US-French tax truce a respite in tense relations with EU," 22 Jan. 2020 Anything that ups the festivity quotient while dialing down on stress is a must-do for December fun. Web Behrens, chicagotribune.com, "15 Christmas, holiday things to do in the Chicago area with the kids," 24 Nov. 2019 The background noise of sectarian violence, mass unemployment and rising emigration got dialed down. Carmel Mc Mahon, Longreads, "Brigid, Magdalene, My Mother, and Me," 13 Nov. 2019 American universities’ preferred policy has long been one that seems contradictory to a lot of the outside world: use standardized admissions tests and then dial down their importance in order to achieve a racially diverse student body. Nicholas Lemann, The New Yorker, "A Civil-Rights Challenge to Testing Joins the College-Admissions Battle," 31 Oct. 2019 Colorado has sharply dialed down its incentives at the same time that spending for streaming content has shot up. Aldo Svaldi, The Denver Post, "Colorado commission saves the day by diverting funds to keep film program rolling," 18 Oct. 2019 Immediately after the exchange between O'Rourke and Buttigieg, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, in a more conciliatory tone, urged the rest of the candidates to dial down the rhetoric. Camilo Montoya-galvez, CBS News, "Beto O'Rourke and Pete Buttigieg spar over gun buyback proposal at fourth Democratic debate," 15 Oct. 2019 When dialing up the magnification on a FFP scope, the reticle will grow larger. Michael R. Shea, Field & Stream, "The 10 Best Rimfire Scopes for Any Budget," 3 Jan. 2020

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for dial

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for dial

Last Updated

27 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Dial.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dial. Accessed 20 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for dial


How to pronounce dial (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of dial

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the part of a clock or watch that has the numbers on it
: the part of a piece of equipment that shows the measurement of something with a moving piece (such as a needle) that points to a number
: a round control on a radio or television that you use to select a station or channel or to make the volume louder or quieter



English Language Learners Definition of dial (Entry 2 of 2)

: 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 How to pronounce dial (audio) \

Kids Definition of dial

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the face of a watch or clock
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

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More from Merriam-Webster on dial

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for dial

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with dial

Spanish Central: Translation of dial

Nglish: Translation of dial for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of dial for Arabic Speakers

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