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 update also includes new sizes, like a slim rectangle and mini square, and POP accessories that attach to the underside of those lids, like a leveler, scoops, date dial, and a brown sugar saver (a terra cotta disk to keep it from drying out!). Katie Macdonald, PEOPLE.com, "Khloé Kardashian Uses These OXO Containers for Her Pantry — and They Just Got a Major Upgrade," 19 Aug. 2019 The late '90s was a time when connecting to the internet meant hearing the screech of a dial-up connection, and downloading files called for a level of patience that feels completely foreign two decades later. NBC News, "From Korean dramas to Filipino sitcoms, Asian Americans lead the way on streaming," 16 Aug. 2019 At the center of all these debates is a bit of legislation that came into being well before Facebook and Twitter, back when the internet was plodding along at dial-up speeds: Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. Matt Laslo, WIRED, "The Fight Over Section 230—and the Internet as We Know It," 13 Aug. 2019 Internet scammers arrived with the dial-up modem years ago, conning people in chat rooms and email inboxes. Jack Nicas, New York Times, "5 Things to Know About Military Romance Scams on Facebook," 28 July 2019 The hacking in which the cDc originally engaged seems quaint in retrospect, mostly about finding ways to steal long-distance phone service to use for dial-up modems. Ben Zimmer, WSJ, "‘Hacktivism’: A Banner for Tech Nerds With a Political Agenda," 14 June 2019 While the old army style with flip up cover is cool, a rectangular plastic orienteering compass with a spinning dial is your best bet. James Lynch, Popular Mechanics, "How To Use a Map and Compass," 19 July 2019 Microsoft’s headphones are quite stylish and offer very effective noise cancellation (with a clever dial for adjusting the level of NC). Chris Welch, The Verge, "Microsoft’s Surface Headphones drop to $190 for Amazon Prime Day," 15 July 2019 No more forgetting his locker code, or fumbling with a number dial. NBC News, "18 Father's Day gifts for every type of dad (and every budget)," 12 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The president also has been engaged in cable coverage ahead of Mueller’s testimony, dialed in to Fox News on Tuesday night, and has delivered his own commentary to allies regarding various cable coverage of the former special counsel's testimony. NBC News, "Robert Mueller set to testify to Congress about his report, Trump," 24 July 2019 Goffin was able to hang in there at the baseline and his on-the-run passing shots were dialed in. Howard Fendrich, Houston Chronicle, "Novak Djokovic's 10-game run tops David Goffin in Wimbledon quarterfinal," 10 July 2019 Once dialed in, the participant will enter a unique login credential given during virtual caucus registration in January 2020. Eleanor Watson, CBS News, "Nevada joins Iowa in "virtual caucus" movement for 2020 presidential race," 8 July 2019 There’s still room to dial in some of these recipes. Michael Russell, oregonlive.com, "Matta blazes a new trail for Vietnamese food in Portland," 20 June 2019 The custom exhaust dates to early 2019, and an ECUMaster digital engine tuner helps to dial in performance. Clocked on a dyno, the mods conspire to produce 476 horsepower and more than 600 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheels. Andrew Wendler, Car and Driver, "1988 Chevrolet Corvette C4 Callaway Twin-Turbo Four-Speed Is a High-Performance Love Letter from the '80s," 15 May 2019 Getting the car dialed in at Kentucky is no bargain. Jason Hoffman, Cincinnati.com, "Could Alex Bowman get second win and break Chevy's losing streak at the Quaker State 400?," 10 July 2019 As for that video meeting (or any other form of technology put into play), Wolfe suggests that every member of the team—even those who work together in the same office—dial in individually. Jenna Schnuer, Fortune, "Turn Remote Worker Pains Into Possibilities With a Pairing of Tech and Talk," 15 June 2019 While the current Alienware 15 R4 can be outfitted with Intel’s 8th-gen Core i9 and a Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1080 Max-Q, the m15 has to dial it back a little. Gordon Mah Ung, PCWorld, "Hands on with Alienware m15: The thinnest 15-inch Alienware laptop ever made," 4 Oct. 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

22 Aug 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).


to move or obtain by small maneuvers

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