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)

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Other words from dial


dialer noun

Synonyms for dial

Synonyms: Verb

call, phone, telephone

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

California needs strong, direct leadership from the top to move the dial on these issues. Amy Chance, sacbee, "California Influencers: What did we learn from the June primary election, and why?," 11 June 2018 On the front are dials for headphone volume, mix (for balancing the signal between PC/mobile audio and the mic itself), and a mute button. Chris Welch, The Verge, "Beyerdynamic’s new $179 USB mic is built for podcasters, Twitch streamers, and musicians," 5 July 2018 Capture up to 50 images with the digital sensor, apply Instagram-like effects and tweaks on the dial switch, then commit only the best shots to film. Brendan Nystedt, WIRED, "These Instant Film Cameras Prove It's Hip to Be Square," 16 June 2018 Throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s, people also launched hundreds, perhaps thousands, of local dial-in computer bulletin board systems (BBSs), reached through modems connected to telephone wires. Nancy Baym, WIRED, "Book Excerpt: How Music Fans Built the Internet," 10 July 2018 The show still has work to do in terms of achieving full equality, but these women have certainly helped move that dial forward. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "16 Times Women Changed the Game on Saturday Night Live," 27 June 2018 And the arrival of fresh foreign capital into Chinese stocks, thanks to the inclusion of some of them in MSCI’s key indexes this month, hasn’t been enough to move the dial. Jacky Wong, WSJ, "Beijing Paddles Hard as a Bear Market Threatens," 22 June 2018 Even if there were, our analysis suggests bilateral tariffs wouldn’t move the dial on China’s growth. Fortune, "China Strikes Back at Trump's 'Flip-Flop' on Tariffs as Trade Spat Heats Up," 30 May 2018 Its black dial and white gold case has a classic design paired with advanced technology. Matt Hranek, Condé Nast Traveler, "Time and Place: A. Lange & Söhne in Lake Como," 30 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

As a gunman stalked the hallways of their high school, panicked students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School dialed 911 in hopes of a speedy police response. Martin Vassolo, miamiherald, "Flawed 911 system ‘absolutely’ affected response to Parkland shooting," 11 July 2018 Police said there was no evidence to suggest that the mother consumed alcohol prior to dialing 911. Nicole Darrah, Fox News, "'Hangry' woman calls cops because her pizza took too long to make, report says," 12 June 2018 Moments after a gunman fired a blast that killed La Shonda Myers as her son stood nearby, the 10-year-old raced upstairs and hid in the bathroom and frantically dialed 911. Glenn E. Rice And Ian Cummings, kansascity, "‘I was in there shaking,’ 10-year-old boy recounts hiding from mother’s killer," 25 Jan. 2018 One need only practice pelvic tilts and butt lifts in front of a full-length mirror to see that, at the very least, people would give you strange looks and, at the most extreme, someone might dial 911 to report a pervert. Marcy Meffert, San Antonio Express-News, "The waiting is the hardest part," 11 May 2018 Page Six reports Amy Robach will also be dialing back her appearances to focus on her new role hosting 20/20, which is predicted to be announced later this week. Kate Storey, Good Housekeeping, "Lara Spencer Is Stepping Away From Role at "Good Morning America"," 16 Apr. 2018 Schnatter, who notoriously featured himself in lots of commercials, had dialed back his public-facing role with the company after the NFL debacle. Jen Kirby, Vox, "Papa John’s founder resigns as chairman after using a racial slur on a call," 12 July 2018 The president has campaigned on wanting to get rid of Roe versus Wade, and wanting to dial back administrative agencies, and wanted to give more authority to the states. Fox News, "Gowdy: SCOTUS confirmation process has become politicized," 10 July 2018 The bipartisan opposition is holding so far, but the administration is pressing to dial back the proposal. Sahil Kapur, Bloomberg.com, "Trump’s ‘Cult-Like’ Grip on GOP Keeps Most Party Members in Line," 13 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.

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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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Statistics for dial

Last Updated

19 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for dial

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

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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

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