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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Other Words from dial


dialer noun

Synonyms for dial

Synonyms: Verb

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

The gauge is used to measure the density of soil by projecting radiation into the ground and displaying the reflection of that radiation on a dial on top of the device, officials said. Zach Murdock, courant.com, "Search on for stolen car containing nuclear density gauge," 3 July 2019 On Monday, July 1, warrior planet Mars joins Mercury in Leo, turning up the dial on egos and tempers. Sophie Saint Thomas, Allure, "How to Use This Month's Mercury Retrograde to Your Advantage," 27 June 2019 Neither Breakthrough Listen nor any other SETI project has picked up a compelling narrow-band radio signal — one that’s at a single spot on the radio dial — that clearly originates from a source beyond our solar system. Seth Shostak, NBC News, "Search for space aliens comes up empty, but extraterrestrial life could still be out there," 26 June 2019 They were all inspired, in part, by culture-jamming, DIY programs in the nether regions of the radio dial, where radio DJs would take bong hits and talk over old films on TV. John Wenzel, The Know, "Mile High Movie Roast’s farewell marks end of era for B-movie comedy," 23 June 2019 The harness system includes a dial-to-fit system that provides a good snug fit and makes getting the helmet on and off easy. Cameron Martindell, WIRED, "Buying Guide: The Best Summer Cycling Gear," 13 June 2019 Each radio station in the game — players on mobile phones will swipe rather than turn a dial — brings us to another opinionated viewpoint. Todd Martens, latimes.com, "‘Alt-Frequencies,’ a radio drama for the social media era," 7 June 2019 Climate controls are easily accessed with dials for temp and fan speed with a row of switches for defrost-vent-recirc. Mark Maynard, sandiegouniontribune.com, "2018 Hyundai Kona: A big deal in a small space," 20 Apr. 2018 Goal Zero’s Lighthouse Core Lantern provides up to 430 lumens, adjustable by an easy-to-use brightness dial. Kraig Becker, Popular Mechanics, "How to Set Up Camp," 2 Apr. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Police have extra patrols in the area and ask residents to be extra observant and report all suspicious vehicles, individuals and activity to the La Grange Police Department by dialing 911 or 708-352-2151. Kimberly Fornek, chicagotribune.com, "Man tries to trick 8-year-old girl into his car in La Grange Park," 9 July 2019 The season’s second episode picks up right where the premiere left off, with an injured and terrified Billy emerging from the steel works basement and sprinting to his car before driving to the nearest phone booth and dialing 911. Time, "Breaking Down What Happens to Billy in Stranger Things Season 3," 4 July 2019 Several local law enforcement agencies and fire departments said this morning on social media that callers had been unable to reach emergency services after dialing 911. Colin Lecher, The Verge, "A 911 outage hit AT&T customers around the United States," 2 July 2019 Anyone with information on Merriweather’s whereabouts was asked to call the Pratville Police Department at 334-595-0208 or dial 911. Howard Koplowitz | Hkoplowitz@al.com, al.com, "Prattville police seek help in finding missing man, 81," 27 June 2019 Authorities say the man dialed 911 at once, but by the time firefighters arrived, thick, black smoke was already billowing through a hole in the roof. Phillip Valys, sun-sentinel.com, "They were grilling steaks for a Sunday cookout. Then fire engulfed their home.," 23 June 2019 Residents are also asked to promptly report drunk drivers to law enforcement by pulling over and dialing 911. Jim Newton, Lake County News-Sun, "Summer impaired driving enforcement program to begin in Lake County," 16 June 2019 The Navy dialed up an elaborate rescue mission to free the sailors from tiny Farsi Island involving fighter jets and a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group. Megan Rose, ProPublica, "Trump Keeps Talking About the Last Military Standoff With Iran — Here’s What Really Happened," 24 June 2019 Montas dialed into one of the best starts of his career against one of the better offenses in baseball. Shayna Rubin, The Mercury News, "A’s sting Rays on Matt Chapman’s ninth-inning home run," 20 June 2019

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

11 Jul 2019

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

 (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
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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More from Merriam-Webster on dial

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with dial

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for dial

Spanish Central: Translation of dial

Nglish: Translation of dial for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of dial for Arabic Speakers

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 desired as essential

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