1

spell

verb \ ˈspel \

Definition of spell

spelled play \ˈspeld, ˈspelt\; spelling
transitive verb
1 :to read slowly and with difficulty often used with out
2 :to find out by study :come to understand often used with out
  • it requires some pains to spell out those decorations
  • —F. J. Mather
3 a (1) :to name the letters of in order; also :to write or print the letters of in order
(2) :to write or print the letters of in a particular way
b :to make up (a word)
  • what word do these letters spell
c :write 1b
  • catnip is spelled as one word
4 :to add up to :mean
  • crop failure was likely to spell stark famine
  • —Stringfellow Barr
intransitive verb
:to form words with letters
  • teach children to spell
; also :to spell words in a certain way
  • spells the way he speaks

Origin and Etymology of spell

Middle English, to mean, signify, read by spelling out letters, from Anglo-French espeleir, of Germanic origin; akin to Old English spellian to relate, spell talk


2

spell

noun

Definition of spell

1 a :a spoken word or form of words held to have magic power
b :a state of enchantment
2 :a strong compelling influence or attraction

Origin and Etymology of spell

Middle English, talk, tale, from Old English; akin to Old High German spel talk, tale


3

spell

verb \ ˈspel \

Definition of spell

spelled play \ˈspeld\; spelling
transitive verb
:to put under a spell

First Known Use of spell

circa 1623


4

spell

noun

Definition of spell

1 a archaic :a shift of workers
b :one's turn at work
2 a :a period spent in a job or occupation
b chiefly Australia :a period of rest from work, activity, or use
3 a :an indeterminate period of time
  • waited a spell before advancing
; also :a continuous period of time
  • did a spell in prison
b :a stretch of a specified type of weather
4 :a period of bodily or mental distress or disorder
  • a spell of coughing
  • fainting spells

Origin and Etymology of spell

probably alteration of Middle English spale substitute, from Old English spala


5

spell

verb

Definition of spell

spelled play \ˈspeld\; spelling
transitive verb
1 :to take the place of for a time :relieve
  • we spell each other every two hours
2 :rest
intransitive verb
1 :to work in turns
2 chiefly Australia :to rest from an activity for a time

Origin and Etymology of spell

Middle English spelen, from Old English spelian; akin to Old English spala substitute



SPELL Defined for Kids

1

spell

verb \ ˈspel \

Definition of spell for Students

spelled; spelling
1 :to name, write, or print in order the letters of a word
2 :to make up the letters of
  • C-A-T spells the word “cat.”
3 :to have (such) a spelling
  • My name is Lynne spelled with an E.
4 :to amount to :mean
  • Another drought would spell famine.

2

spell

noun

Definition of spell for Students

1 :a spoken word or group of words believed to have magic power :charm
2 :a very strong influence
  • Their talking broke the music's spell.

3

spell

noun

Definition of spell for Students

1 :a short period of time
  • Come and sit a spell.
2 :a stretch of a specified kind of weather
  • a dry spell
  • a warm spell
3 :a period of bodily or mental distress or disorder
  • fainting spells
4 :a person's turn at work or duty
5 :a period spent in a job or occupation After a spell of teaching, she went back to sales.

4

spell

verb

Definition of spell for Students

spelled; spelling
:to take the place of for a time :relieve
  • spell a person at shoveling
  • Grandma … took the paddle out of her hand. “I'll spell you, Wilma.”
  • —Richard Peck, A Year Down Yonder

Medical Dictionary

spell

noun \ ˈspel \

medical Definition of spell

:a period of bodily or mental distress or disorder
  • a spell of coughing
  • fainting spells


Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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

WORD OF THE DAY

cautious about doing something

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Forms of Government Quiz

  • knupfer-painting-solon-before-croesus
  • A gerontocracy is rule by:
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

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

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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