Definition of dial in English:


nounPlural dials

  • 1A face of a clock or watch that is marked to show units of time.

    • ‘The clock dials overlap one another, making for a very pretty, three-dimensional whirring cog effect.’
    • ‘He glanced at his watch, the glowing dial reading 5pm, Perton time.’
    • ‘Although described as a clock, the time-piece element - the tiny watch dial in the uppermost section - is its least significant feature.’
    • ‘I showed him my watch, tapped the dial and then turned away again.’
    • ‘Bigger dials may be in fashion, but a regular watch with a small dial is the choice of most people.’
    • ‘Winston looked at the tarnished dial of his watch, it was three a. m.’
    • ‘Eight-day clocks with painted dials by the Willard family of Roxbury, Massachusetts, have been extensively studied and documented for nearly a century.’
    • ‘They've built a huge uranium processing facility, which they say produces only glow-in-the-dark watch dials.’
    • ‘Death was looking pretty good, compared to another thirty years painting watch dials.’
    • ‘Logos and brand names are often poorly fixed to the dial of fake watches.’
    • ‘When the watch dial is lit, the tick marks appear as lit jewels.’
    • ‘The Octopus watch has been launched, obviously with an octopus on the watch dial.’
    • ‘There are watches with big dials displaying the time in different countries, stop-watches for athletes and watches in which one can store telephone numbers.’
    • ‘This luminous paint was applied to watch dials, light switches, and even to the costumes of nightclub dancers.’
    • ‘After the evening Bible reading, I was sent to bed with a big old alarm clock having a luminous dial.’
    • ‘Oh, yeah, it has to be an old-fashioned analog watch, with a dial and hands and all those wheels and moving parts inside.’
    • ‘The dial on your dive watch would send a Geiger counter into cardiac arrest.’
    • ‘The lighted dial on his watch showed one-thirty a.m. as they exited the cab back at their apartment building.’
    • ‘The wooden matches were glued to the dial of the manual kitchen timer.’
    1. 1.1 A flat plate with a scale and pointer for showing measurements of weight, volume, or pressure.
      • ‘The general opened the steel briefcase to reveal a black control panel, full of dials, indicators and buttons.’
      • ‘I stood on my new evil scales and the dial screamed 11 stone 7.’
      • ‘Let the pressure fall 2 millimeters, or lines on the dial, per second while listening for your heart sounds.’
      • ‘Most of the children are weighed, the smallest kicking and screaming as they are slipped into bags and suspended from scales, the dial sometimes barely registering their existence.’
      • ‘Shaped like a set of dashboard instruments, the dials show time, temperature and air pressure.’
      • ‘A panel of dials, communications technology and fuel measuring equipment springs to life, beeping and flashing across the cabin.’
      • ‘Without a regulator it was the engineer's job to monitor the speed of the thing, to keep it steady, also to keep the pressure below that mark on the dial.’
      • ‘But he could not ignore the air pressure dial as it inched closer to the red.’
      • ‘He appeared to be in the control booth of some sort of laboratory, and he felt almost at home as he studied the dials and gauges in the panel before him.’
      • ‘When I say fat people I mean people who are so fat that when they stand on the scales they say 25 kg because the dial has gone all the way around about ten times.’
      • ‘The sound annoyed Zack at the time, so he turned the volume dial on the side of it all the way down.’
      • ‘The old scale was analog, with a dial and a pointer that waggled a bit unless you stood perfectly still.’
      • ‘I flashed a big smile then grabbed the volume dial and turned it up until it wouldn't go anymore.’
      • ‘The mechanism was clearly a type of analog computer, using fixed gear ratios to make calculations displayed as pointer readings on a dial.’
      • ‘Put on some headphones and twist the volume dial until it distorts beyond recognition.’
      • ‘The angled analogue dials are a particularly nice touch with white backgrounds to match the speedo and rev counter.’
      • ‘Despite all that, this morning I kept the radio on rather than putting on a CD, and I kept the volume control in the bottom area of the dial.’
      • ‘At no time was there less than one pair of eyes locked on the bank of monitoring computer screens, dials, charts and print-outs.’
      • ‘Next to the headphone port is a handy volume dial.’
      • ‘The 575M also has a sensor that enables the driver to check tyre pressures in normal day-to-day driving, courtesy of a dial on the console.’
      measuring instrument, measuring device, meter, measure
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 A disc with numbered finger holes on a telephone, rotated a particular distance for each digit of the number being called.
      • ‘Feeling around the dial, her nimble fingers punched in the buttons, and she bit her lip, hoping that her friend would answer.’
      • ‘That notion is becoming as quaint as dial telephones.’
      • ‘Today, that's like trying to sell rotary dial telephones in Sweden.’
      • ‘Each compartment had three telephone dials, one for the units, one for the tens and the other for the hundreds.’
      • ‘To be sure, dials and telephones were like new music releases and 45s. Nowadays, it is difficult to find one or the other.’
      • ‘Under lighting restriction orders, a Naval officer at Yarmouth was fined for striking matches in a telephone box to read the dial.’
      • ‘They don't even know about rotary dials there yet, forget the cell phone.’
      • ‘When Caligari refuses to let Jane retrieve her car the next morning, she tries to call for help, but there's a lock on the telephone dial.’
      • ‘In Parts Conversation, several old-fashioned dial telephones are subjected to increasingly severe mutilations.’
      • ‘He heard more of his mother's footsteps, and the peculiar sound of the phone's rotary dial.’
      • ‘His finger swerves over the dial; the telephone is too slow.’
      • ‘A web browser that uses a rotary phone dial as a custom physical interface.’
      • ‘One shop had a telephone with a dial just like the one I remember us having when I was a kid.’
    3. 1.3 A plate or disc turned to select a setting on a radio, cooker, or other piece of equipment.
      • ‘Lacking a tuning dial, they contained individual crystals cut to resonate at specific frequencies.’
      • ‘By rotating the dial, the pivot point or the fulcrum of the brake lever moves in and out.’
      • ‘Antavas moved another switch and adjusted a dial on the control panel.’
      • ‘Starting in September, fans of Bugs Bunny and the rest of the Looney Tunes titles will have to turn their dials to Cartoon Network.’
      • ‘You adjust the dial to a more comfortable setting and go back to your reading.’
      • ‘Next Maddy crossed the room to the light switch and used the dial to dim the lights.’
      • ‘You set a dial and the timer turns off the water at the designated time.’
      • ‘The fan-speed adjuster was a rotary knob on the old model, while this model has a flat dial.’
      • ‘Net radio provides listeners with something that the local FM dial doesn't: a wide variety.’
      • ‘The Akasa fan control system has 3 dials for variable speed fan adjustment.’
      • ‘So saying, he touched the transmit button, and slowly turned the tuning dial.’
      • ‘I rotated the dial to the correct numbers and the locker opened.’
      • ‘Increasingly such shows are available on the cable dial.’
      • ‘The oven doesn't work and the numbers on the stove's control dials have been rubbed off, so you're either boiling something or not cooking at all.’
      • ‘Nadezhda knelt to adjust the tuning dial again, but lost the transmission completely.’
      • ‘In disgust, Amy reaches over and twists the radio dial vigorously.’
      • ‘This is a camera where the photographer sees exactly the same image that is exposed to the film and can adjust everything by turning dials and clicking buttons.’
      • ‘The iPod volume/scan controls are done by spinning my finger on the round, flat dial on the face of the iPod.’
      • ‘Turn the film speed dial from the ASA of the film you are using to the next highest film speed.’
      • ‘Each has a dial on it that you can twist to measure exactly the amount of spice you want, in 1/4 tsp increments.’
    4. 1.4British informal A person's face.
      ‘he must be one of the new batch—I haven't seen his dial before’

verbdialling, dialled, dials, dialed, dialing

[with object]
  • Call (a telephone number) by turning a dial or using a keypad.

    ‘she dialled 999’
    ‘it took only a moment to dial in the numbers’
    no object ‘company employees dial out from their office’
    • ‘Just like on an old-fashioned phone, you pickup your telephone and dial the number of the person you wish to contact.’
    • ‘I grabbed my phone out of my room and dialed her cell phone but got voicemail immediately.’
    • ‘As soon as he finds it, he picks up the telephone and dials.’
    • ‘She glanced at the phone for a few seconds before actually picking it up and dialling his cell phone.’
    • ‘Reluctantly, I flipped my cell phone open and dialled a familiar number.’
    • ‘It enables PC users to dial land lines and handphones worldwide for a fee.’
    • ‘Much worse, I found that whenever I tried to dial a phone number the device reset itself.’
    • ‘Emily began poking at the buttons on the keypad, pretending to dial her friend Janey.’
    • ‘She pulls her cell phone out and dials Casey's cell.’
    • ‘You can program most cell phones with a particular key that when pressed dials 911 automatically.’
    • ‘For travelers who book by phone, an automated telephone system dials the telephone numbers that customers supply with their bookings.’
    • ‘By dialing a special telephone number, they can access their company's corporate network.’
    • ‘She pulls out her cellphone, dials, and talks in rapid Russian down the phone.’
    • ‘The driver can dial telephone numbers directly by voice input or using controls on the steering wheel.’
    • ‘Grabbing the telephone and quickly dialing the phone number, he wondered why he hadn't thought of this sooner.’
    • ‘She began driving again and pulled out her cell phone, dialling her house.’
    • ‘Just stop at any public telephone booth and dial to hear messages from near and far.’
    • ‘His cell-phone automatically dials that bistro's telephone number.’
    • ‘She decided to do what the DJ said, so she got out her cell phone and dialed the radio station.’
    • ‘Well, taking his advice, I went home and immediately dialed her telephone number.’
    telephone, phone, phone up, call, call up
    View synonyms

Phrasal Verbs

  • dial something down

    • 1Adjust the control on an electrical device so as to reduce the level of sound, light, heat, etc. produced.

      ‘after 15 minutes of frustration, someone on the stand took the hint and dialled down the music’
      • ‘You can extend the battery life by dialling down the screen brightness.’
      • ‘I hadn't dialed down the exposure enough, so unfortunately I have 100 shots of a overexposed, featureless sun in front of a great desert framing.’
      • ‘You'll see I've dialed down the magnification to its lowest setting.’
      • ‘The sound mix is quite strong in terms of dialogue and sound effects, but I felt like the music was dialed down a little too low in many scenes.’
      • ‘When we tried to dial down the brightness level, we made an odd discovery.’
      • ‘I heard myself shouting a few times and had to forcibly dial down the volume.’
      • ‘At times Ennio Morricone's pulsating score is dialed down a little too low in favor of capturing all of the sound design, but it's not a terrible trade.’
      • ‘A separate selector switch gives the option of having both lasers dialed down to "training" mode.’
      • ‘These babies pair with any Bluetooth-enabled stereo device to let you skip, play, pause, crank up, or dial down your music.’
      • ‘Firefighters and other city workers went door to door, asking building managers to dial down the power.’
      1. 1.1informal Lessen the amount, intensity, or degree of a quality, factor, etc.
        ‘he's dialled down the rage that seems to permeate his other novels’
        ‘having read this review I think I will dial down my expectations a little’
        • ‘As you turn 40 and then 50 and eventually retire, the funds will gradually and automatically dial down the risk in your portfolio by buying more bonds.’
        • ‘She needs to increase muscularity in certain parts of her body, train for gymnastic skills, increase her flexibility and dial down the workout hours.’
        • ‘The chip makers have been quick to adapt, by dialing down the spud content in their recipes and cranking up the soy.’
        • ‘There isn't going to be a compromise until folks start trying to engage with each other and dial down some of the rhetoric.’
        • ‘It isn't the only big food company to react to the recession by dialing down new product development, which is expensive and risky.’
        • ‘The alcoholic content was duly dialled down, to near zero.’
        • ‘It's true that MTV has dialed down and almost eliminated its war coverage in recent weeks, returning to its party-all-the-time spring break programming.’
        • ‘There may be room to dial down the risk in your total portfolio through both long-term and dynamic asset allocation decisions.’
        • ‘We don't all have to start quoting scripture, we just have to dial down the mockery a notch.’
        • ‘He seems to have dialed down his extreme tone a bit.’
        • ‘We should probably try to keep the outrage dialed down just a bit.’
        • ‘He dials down the mystique and charisma, though his boyish good looks will still likely make the girls swoon.’
  • dial in (or into)

    • Access a computer system or service remotely via a telephone line.

      ‘there's no need to dial in to see if you have mail’
      ‘remote workers or travelling employees can dial into the data network’
      • ‘The company blamed heavier than anticipated usage of the service for the temporary suspension, after existing customers were unable to dial in.’
      • ‘Whenever you dial in to an Internet connection, your ISP can determine your phone number with caller ID.’
      • ‘There's 10/100 wired Ethernet, and users can dial in using the built-in 57Kbps modem.’
      • ‘Once you dial in to your ISP, all you have to do is load whatever browser you want to use.’
      • ‘The overwhelming majority of the pay-as-you-go customers dial in less than once a month and generate little if any revenue.’
      • ‘The new generation of wireless devices means it is now possible to remain constantly connected to the office, without the need to dial in.’
      • ‘Curious, I dialed into voicemail and played back the message.’
      • ‘She found the password written on the first page of her phone book and dialed into the voice mail system.’
      • ‘We dialled into the Internet and went to AltaVista.’
      • ‘So each time I dial in for mail and, perhaps, a little surf session, a meter starts back at the phone exchange and the pennies begin to tick away.’
      • ‘This address will normally change each time you dial in, which makes it hard for a hacker to identify your individual machine.’
  • dial something in (or into)

    • 1Indicate or regulate by means of a dial.

      ‘you're expected to dial in volume and tone settings’
      • ‘It floats through bends, refusing to step out, until you learn to push its limits and then it will take the exit with any level of oversteer you care to dial in.’
      • ‘I can now dial in the speed I require, anywhere from 25 to 60 mph, and relax.’
      • ‘We also really liked being able to dial in different effects from the NSP engine depending on the type of audio material we were listening to.’
      • ‘You can dial in contrast, brightness, and individual RGB levels for the incoming signal from a PC's graphics card.’
      • ‘Then try out our methodology to dial in the just-right combination of image quality and frame rate.’
      • ‘This allows you to dial in reasonable settings in front of clients before switching in the processing.’
      • ‘Essentially, this is a glass-based system that allows the driver to dial in the amount of diffusion that he or she is comfortable with.’
      • ‘It has an infinitely adjustable two-bolt head so you can dial in your saddle tilt.’
      • ‘In general, digital tuners seem to work better, and are certainly easier to setup, since you can dial in the exact desired frequency.’
      • ‘It's something you can dial in on your own with some experimentation.’
      • ‘As the day wore on I noticed we had to dial in more elevation and although we were still making consistent hits at 300 yards I suspected we had shot the barrel out.’
      1. 1.1Include or add.
        ‘the car has a lot of understeer dialled into the suspension’
        • ‘Don't even think about stepping onto a glacier until you've dialed in these mountaineering skills.’
        • ‘In addition, Toyota's engineers have dialed in a comfortable seatback angle, which means long trips in the back seats are enjoyable.’
        • ‘Argue the point all you want, but virtually every modern car bar the hardest TVRs have understeer dialled in to safeguard the occupants.’
        • ‘There's nothing basic or unrefined about the little hatchback, but the engineers have managed to dial in great dollops of fun.’
        • ‘After living with three kitchens in less than two years, I have dialed in many of my future kitchen's must-haves.’
  • be (or get) dialled in

    • Be or become so focused that one is able to perform to the best of one's abilities.

      ‘I didn't really get dialled in until the final qualifying session’
      • ‘Once you've downshifted your calories, you need only follow these basic guidelines to get your body dialed in for the beach over the next three months.’
      • ‘We're both dialed in, so to change this successful formula would be a mistake.’
      • ‘Hudson was also dialled in, scoring 28 points and going six of 10 from the three-point line.’
      • ‘He is known as a streak hitter who, when he does get dialed in, can carry a team on his back.’
      • ‘Anthony was in much better shape than he was two weeks ago at the Atlantic City Pro, but still wasn't as dialed in as several other competitors who appeared to have the edge in terms of conditioning.’
      • ‘You mustn't rush into bends too fast because you can drift out but we'll get some great racing once the riders get dialled in.’
      • ‘While he has the power to wreak havoc as a three-down lineman, Warren is dialed in only for short stretches, has never developed a lethal counter move to his bull rush and gets fat and lazy.’
      • ‘A semifinal bye helped Omond get dialed in for the final against Miller.’
      • ‘Without meaning to sound too awful, I don't think that I could really focus in the same way if she was there because you have to be as professional as possible, completely dialled in, if you want to give it your best shot.’
  • dial up (or dial something up)

    • Access a computer system or service remotely via a telephone line.

      ‘dialling up each time we want to use the Internet will become a thing of the past’
      ‘people do not have to pay for phone line calls every time they dial up to the internet’
      ‘plans to enable customers to dial up videos from their living room’
      • ‘While most people used to dial up to their ISP for limited amounts of time, now many are online 24/7, thanks to their broadband Net connection.’
      • ‘I decided to dial up the new series, and much to my surprise, found myself hooked in a very short time, albeit confused from the outset because I hadn't seen the three hour miniseries.’
      • ‘It is always-on and connected, eliminating the need to dial up for access, and connect and disconnect from the internet.’
      • ‘Because the personal computer at home is permanently connected, there is no need to dial up for access.’
      • ‘The company's traffic comes largely from its 22.2 million subs, who see the portal whenever they dial up.’
      • ‘I never dial up to listen to my voice messages.’
      • ‘Those bringing laptops may plug in and dial up to their usual ISPs.’
      • ‘Those which had firewall virus protection on their systems had beaten away the bug, but those without found their systems spontaneously rebooting every time they dialled up the Internet.’
      • ‘You will not be able to change your password unless you have dialed up to the network and are connected.’
      • ‘Valley geeks were already hopping onto Wi-Fi hotspots and playing with "smart" phones, but most people were still dialling up to connect to the internet and using mobile phones only for talking.’
  • dial something up

    • 1Adjust the control on an electrical device so as to increase the level of sound, light, heat, etc. produced.

      ‘even with everything dialled up to full, the audio output level was only moderate at best’
      • ‘He could basically tune his guitar to the room, find out how the room responded to the amplifier, and dial it up so he could have maximum control of the feedback.’
      • ‘At one point her right lung stopped functioning, her left lung only partially worked, and a machine that provided oxygen had to be dialed up to 100 percent.’
      • ‘Minute by minute, someone dialed up the music, 'til it was hard to hear each other, even from a foot or two away.’
      • ‘The bass seems to have been dialled up a little.’
      • ‘Andrew dialed up the music on the jukebox.’
      • ‘The brightness and contrast controls operate on a 100-point scale, but the brightness control had no effect on the display's black level until we dialed it up past 65.’
      • ‘Nickolai reached over to the ancient metal desk where the professor who had worked here had kept his own collection and dialed up the heat.’
      • ‘I developed a cramp in my thumb dialing the volume up and down to compensate for the uneven audio levels.’
      • ‘The music that plays over the menus, however, is dialed up to half again the volume of the feature itself, resulting in ear-shock when transitioning from one to the other.’
      • ‘Turning to the record player, he dialed up the volume as high as it would go.’
      1. 1.1informal Increase the amount, intensity, or degree of a quality, factor, etc.
        ‘the Raiders really dialled up the pressure in the second half’
        • ‘The troubled telco has hired a new president to dial up growth.’
        • ‘On a recent red carpet she dialed up the drama with more hot makeup: intense eyeliner and a deep berry pout.’
        • ‘Having made his intentions known, Nixon dialed up the charm.’
        • ‘The president is now dialing up his rhetoric.’
        • ‘I'm positive the F1 veteran will progress quite nicely throughout the month and will qualify easily, but will he be able to dial up the aggression if necessary?’
        • ‘"Welcome to the world of grizzly bears," he would say, sometimes employing an Aussie accent, which he typically dialed up for women and children.’
        • ‘Gateway dialed up spending to more than $50 million as it seeks more users in the business market.’
        • ‘Yes, the action has been dialed up to a whole new level.’
        • ‘First up were alt-rockers Take the Day, a five-piece from Milwaukee who dialed up the energy level on their set.’
        • ‘He's slipping in the polls and dialing up the heat on the campaign trail.’
        • ‘The New York creatives were asked to work up a print/outdoor campaign that would ‘dial up the cool factor’.’


Middle English (denoting a mariner's compass): from medieval Latin diale ‘clock dial’, based on Latin dies ‘day’.