Main definitions of spell in English

: spell1spell2spell3spell4

spell1

verb

[WITH OBJECT]
  • 1Write or name the letters that form (a word) in correct sequence.

    ‘Dolly spelled her name’
    [no object] ‘journals have a house style about how to spell’
    • ‘For example, in learning to spell and recognize words, a student may be asked to see, say, write, and spell each new word.’
    • ‘The first twenty pages of my first book are filled with nothing but hundreds of attempts to learn to write and spell my name.’
    • ‘Note that they even spelt the company name wrong in the body of the email!’
    • ‘The pen can sense when you spell a word wrong and it gives you suggestions on the screen.’
    • ‘I had been in such a hurry to get out of that office I probably hadn't even spelt half the words right.’
    • ‘You throw me a thirty-letter word and I can spell it with just about as much ease as a ten-letter word or a five-letter word.’
    • ‘I actually learned how to spell his name before mine.’
    • ‘She is teaching him to spell the word ‘quarantine’ letter by letter.’
    • ‘The address was spelled out in newspaper letters.’
    • ‘In her opinion, it was even money on whether or not he could correctly spell his own name.’
    • ‘Several immigrants didn't know how to write or spell their own names, so immigration inspectors created one for them.’
    • ‘See how many words you can spell with these letters in one minute.’
    • ‘Lee probably couldn't even spell the word subterfuge let alone actually use it as a method of gleaning accurate information.’
    • ‘Did you make sure you spelt my name correctly?’
    • ‘The present study investigated how children spell words that contain silent consonants as their final letter.’
    • ‘I don't care if you hate writing and have a hard time spelling your name.’
    • ‘There is, for example, scarcely a Welsh name which is correctly spelt.’
    • ‘It would have been useful if you had spelled the name of the artist I wrote about correctly.’
    • ‘I'm Canadian so some of the words will be spelled the Canadian way.’
    • ‘It was funny how some couldn't spell the simplest word or even make a complete sentence!’
    1. 1.1(of letters) make up or form (a word)
      ‘the letters spell the word ‘how’’
      • ‘He didn't care about the numbers, but the letters clearly spelled something.’
      • ‘I liked the black letters that were sparkly and spelled the word, ‘hottie’.’
      • ‘I brought a large book to my office; its title, A Black History of America, was spelled out in gold letters.’
      • ‘Black letters spelled out the words ‘Beyond Reality’ above the display on a piece of wood that seemed to have a revolting green mold growing in one of the corners.’
      • ‘Little letters spelt out his birth date and the whole book was decorated in blue and green pieces of paper and sparkly letters.’
      • ‘The compositions still feature letters, now spelling out complete words and phrases.’
      • ‘The participants classified the target by pressing one key if the letter string spelled a word they knew, and another key if it did not.’
      • ‘While you're at it, try and decipher what the letters spell out.’
      • ‘Hung unevenly along the wall, the topsy-turvy letters spelling Water decline toward the floor in a symbolic cascade.’
      • ‘I've thought of writing a poem, with the first letter of each word spelling my email, but my attempts so far are not likely to get a reply.’
      • ‘The letters spelling out Canadian Security Investigative Service were in big white bold letters around the circumference of the circle.’
      • ‘Each picture is a grid of 16 photographs headed by letters spelling out an obscene word or provocative statement.’
      • ‘The first team to lose five hands, thus getting five letters spelling the whole word K-E-M-P-S loses the game.’
      • ‘If you hadn't already noticed, the first letter of each rule spells out the word kitchen.’
      • ‘So I started shooting photos that incorporate big letters spelling a holiday greeting and used them to illustrate our Christmas newsletter.’
      • ‘Brass lettering spelled SUPERINTENDENT on it, and Spade rapped loudly on the wood.’
      • ‘Faded gold lettering spelled out the words, ‘The Lore of the Navy.’’
      • ‘Huge upholstered foam letters ring the gallery space, spelling the word HOPE in English, French, Hebrew and Arabic.’
      • ‘Five seconds later the screen was black, and big letters spelled out the words: GAME OVER.’
      • ‘She had on her bright red ‘It wasn't me’ shirt, with the white letters spelling out the denial on her chest.’
  • 2Be a sign or characteristic of.

    ‘she had the chic, efficient look that spells Milan’
    1. 2.1Mean or have as a result.
      ‘the plans would spell disaster for the economy’
      • ‘That can spell disaster for an individual's health.’
      • ‘The variable that promised to spell disaster for Iowa farmers was the high seed costs associated with GM crops.’
      • ‘Such an event would spell disaster for the remainder of their journey.’
      • ‘Failure to resolve this last issue quickly and effectively would have spelled disaster for the plan.’
      • ‘The event could have spelled disaster for the little grocery store.’
      • ‘And that could really spell disaster when property taxes are also going up.’
      • ‘When things don't go as planned, debt can spell trouble.’
      • ‘Slow economic times don't have to spell disaster for your business.’
      • ‘For everyone else, however, it spells disaster.’
      • ‘Conservation experts say it spells disaster for cod stocks as talks continued last night.’
      • ‘Despite good results in lesser matches, that World Cup defeat spelt the end of Thorne's captaincy.’
      • ‘This spells disaster for aquatic life unable to adjust to the altered conditions.’
      • ‘But Harris is confident the newer company artists will spell success for the galleries who sign on.’
      • ‘This gross over-development for such a small, unique city spells disaster.’
      • ‘Publicity surrounding the case spelled disaster for the Queensland dive industry.’
      • ‘Schemes such as interlinking of rivers could spell disaster for the environment, as they represent gross interference with natural processes, he says.’
      • ‘Now she had concocted a plan that would spell doom for Shirley, her revenge for taking her man and insulting her pride.’
      • ‘In effect, the very characteristics that make it prosper at one time may spell its downfall at a later time.’
      • ‘Introducing a new leading character can spell disaster or triumph for an author.’
      • ‘And if he has to hike our taxes in the middle of a consumer downturn, it could spell disaster.’

Phrasal Verbs

  • spell something out

    • Explain something in detail.

      ‘I'll spell out the problem again’
      • ‘But laser eye surgery has caused controversy because of claims that the risks are not spelt out to consumers.’
      • ‘The details of the agreement will be spelled out in a contract.’
      • ‘This is the first time many of these steps have been spelled out publicly.’
      • ‘He said his plans will be spelled out in more detail in the strategy he will present to the EU later this week.’
      • ‘Who needs conspiracy theories when things are spelt out as clearly as this?’
      • ‘The ads urged viewers to visit a website set up especially for the campaign, where the message was spelt out even further.’
      • ‘It is important that certain facts are spelt out to the public.’
      • ‘The research questions are spelled out in a very specific way.’
      • ‘One area where costs are spelled out in detail is that of executive salary packages.’
      • ‘Everyone knew rumours were going around and the company had promised to be honest with us, but the true situation wasn't spelt out in time.’
      explain, make clear, make plain, elucidate, clarify
      specify, set out, set forth, state precisely, be specific about, itemize, detail, enumerate, list, unfold, expound, particularize, delineate, catalogue, rehearse
      View synonyms

Origin

Middle English: shortening of Old French espeller, from the Germanic base of spell.

Pronunciation:

spell

/spɛl/

Main definitions of spell in English

: spell1spell2spell3spell4

spell2

noun

  • 1A form of words used as a magical charm or incantation.

    ‘a spell is laid on the door to prevent entry’
    • ‘I suspect that he was the one to teach you fire spells.’
    • ‘Papers were scattered everywhere, and he muttered the words to a small spell and they quickly floated into a neat stack in the center or the desktop.’
    • ‘But how could one concentrate on words for creating spells when another mutter curses on you?’
    • ‘She finally shouted out the final word of her spell, and it was gone.’
    • ‘Sarah had asked the shopkeeper, and been dismayed to learn that although she knew some basic spells, that woman who tended the herb shop wasn't really a Spellcaster.’
    • ‘Kyri was mumbling the words to a spell which she finished by laying her hand on Aikel's arm.’
    • ‘She ducked under another sword as she spoke the words of a spell.’
    • ‘It sounded nasty, but I didn't know if it was a spell or a swear word.’
    • ‘Taukat showed his agreement by muttering the words of a spell and conjuring a cloud of acid rain over the unsuspecting targets.’
    • ‘We will be accumulating success in word spells and practicing the pronunciation of the difficult language Char.’
    • ‘Any spell you could ever want to find is in this book.’
    • ‘She began to chant the words for the earthquake spell.’
    • ‘Immediately, the High Cleric began chanting a spell, her words echoed throughout the room in each syllable.’
    • ‘It wasn't quite the same as when a sorcerer used high level spells, but the words were still unintelligible.’
    • ‘All they talk about are spells and famous mages.’
    • ‘Whispering the last word of the spell, he tapped the picture.’
    • ‘She uttered a few words of a spell, and, with a small flash, disappeared.’
    • ‘Yet, she struggled to remember the word to the spell.’
    • ‘She then said the final words to her spell and pointed to Tona.’
    • ‘I glared at the woman, who shut up pretty quickly, then placed my hands on either side of the small circle, muttering the words of a spell.’
    incantation, charm, conjuration, rune, magic formula
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1A state of enchantment caused by a magic spell.
      ‘the magician may cast a spell on himself’
      • ‘Shawna and I have switched bodies because your sister cast a spell on me.’
      • ‘I was looking for the witch that cast a spell on the beautiful princess of this land.’
      • ‘Raven had cast a spell on them, killing them with the fire of hell.’
      • ‘Then she cast a spell on me to make me float in the air, and she hovered right near me.’
      • ‘I quickly cast a spell on my rod, blazing the magic back to the Shadow.’
      • ‘It was perfectly safe; he had cast a spell on the fireball so it wouldn't burn anybody.’
      • ‘It felt like she had cast a spell on him, entrancing and beckoning him.’
      • ‘Luckily I cast a spell on the clothes so you can't take them off.’
      • ‘Following her into the Buddhist temple and into the Yellow Dragon Cave, the Supervisor seems to cast a spell on her.’
      • ‘She cast a spell on you secretly so that you would be under her control.’
      • ‘But before he took the last step that brought him to the old man's domain, Cale had paid a half-demon sorceress to cast a spell on him.’
      • ‘I cast a spell on us right before I drifted off to sleep.’
      • ‘The figure cast a spell on Adrian, Beltrax, and Talia, teleporting them to an alcove within the dungeon.’
      • ‘Only her father knew, but told no one since she had cast a spell on him to keep her secrets.’
      • ‘Klynan cast a spell on the rocks and they turned red and burned.’
      • ‘I cast a spell on you when your father died: I bound your powers so that you will only receive them when you're 18.’
      • ‘She had said that a long time ago a witch had cast a spell on this place.’
      • ‘He had also heard rumors of how she would cast a spell on the men she met, forever binding them to her will.’
      • ‘He was almost contented when Maura cast a spell on the gates, giving them even more strength.’
      • ‘My mother died shortly after I became ten, I'm not sure what disease she had acquired, but I think Giselle must have cast a spell on her.’
    2. 1.2An ability to control or influence people as though one had magical power over them.
      ‘he woke from her spell’
      • ‘Once again, he proved that age and disease have not robbed him of the magic to cast a spell on listeners with his poems.’
      • ‘Men often fall under the spell of the power of the boob.’
      • ‘When you're in the culture and you're living it day to day, living in Brooklyn, South Central or Oakland, you are under the spell of that cultural influence.’
      • ‘He stood there stupidly, under the spell of that single word.’
      • ‘It made hardly any difference; the participants fell under the same spell of this situational power.’
      • ‘Only a ponderous blues lead by shaven headed bass player John Power temporarily broke the spell.’
      • ‘He holds a formidable spell over Esperanza and controls her until she wises up and leaves him to pursue her career.’

Phrases

  • under a spell

    • Not fully in control of one's thoughts and actions.

      ‘the beauty of the land put me under a spell’
      • ‘I just stood there staring dumbly like someone under a spell.’
      • ‘He looked back at Eugene who seemed to be under a spell and thoughts rushed through his mind.’
      • ‘Her heart is racing - she feels like she's under a spell.’
      • ‘I felt like I was under a spell, and could no longer control my body.’
      • ‘The soft music continued to blare from the small stereo that she owned, the symphony sounding brilliant and almost hypnotic, taking Eva under a spell.’
      • ‘I don't want to say under a spell, that seems trite.’
      • ‘He slid to the ground silently, almost as if he were under a spell.’
      • ‘On stage he comes alive and places the audience under a spell; outside of it, he works fiercely with a number of charities and human rights organisations.’
      • ‘As if under a spell or hypnotized, she couldn't escape.’
      • ‘All she had to do was smile, and Alex would be completely taken away, more like captivated under a spell.’
  • under someone's spell

    • So devoted to someone that they seem to have magic power over one.

      ‘she needed to have men under her spell’
      • ‘And I fell under their spell, and stopped worrying about rehearsals.’
      • ‘She was under his spell; mesmerized by his eyes and his voice and, most of all, by his touch.’
      • ‘He was an aquaintence of the couple with an obsessive nature and had fallen under Seward 's spell.’
      • ‘He has some sort of magic that puts me under his spell.’
      • ‘When you're under a boy 's spell, it's not always easy to break.’
      • ‘If you aren't involved, don't be surprised if you pull someone new and exciting under your spell!’
      • ‘Do you think they really are magicians casting us under their spell?’
      • ‘He was so sure of himself and his power to seduce that it was hard not to fall under his spell, not that I wasn't a willing participant.’
      • ‘Bollywood's over-the-top high jinks have fascinated audiences from the Far East to the Middle East to Russia, and now even the West is coming under its spell.’
      • ‘Maybe she had used her evil powers of seduction to draw him under her spell.’

Origin

Old English spel(l) ‘narration’, of Germanic origin.

Pronunciation:

spell

/spɛl/

Main definitions of spell in English

: spell1spell2spell3spell4

spell3

noun

  • 1A short period.

    ‘I want to get away from racing for a spell’
    • ‘After a short spell on a high dose you should start to feel better - but you might have to continue taking a low maintenance dose for several months or even longer.’
    • ‘A short spell for Parnells in Dublin was the only break between 1973 and 1996.’
    • ‘Paul took up the post of County Accountant in the mid-Seventies, leaving for a short spell, only to return to take up the post of Finance Officer.’
    • ‘During my short spell in this job I have come across plenty of it.’
    • ‘He said that judges should encourage community sentences in place of short spells in prison.’
    • ‘His early career was interrupted by various short spells in prison for violent behaviour.’
    • ‘The execution of his brother, his long spells in emigration, and the failure of the old-type revolutionaries all contributed to this difference.’
    • ‘However, he was married for a short spell while he was living in County Kerry.’
    • ‘He took a draught of his beer and thought for a short spell.’
    • ‘The Danish prison system allows those serving short sentences to be released for short spells.’
    • ‘They merely took advantage of it for short spells while unable to obtain other work.’
    • ‘Her husband was arrested and spent only a short spell in prison.’
    • ‘After a short spell in what is now the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, he joined the BBC in 1941, staying till he retired in 1975.’
    • ‘He also played factory leagues in Clare and Limerick while working in those counties for a short spell.’
    • ‘Apart from a short spell in the opening half, Ireland never looked like scoring a try, where as the English crossed the Irish line five times.’
    • ‘It doesn't happen very much and usually only lasts for a short spell.’
    • ‘I did have a few games on the wing there but only for short spells.’
    • ‘There is no point in condemning victims of drugs and crime to short spells in prison, only to have them come out in the same predicament as before.’
    • ‘Their split when she was just 19 left her with nervous exhaustion and prompted a short spell in a psychiatric ward.’
    • ‘Too many clubs have been put on hold for long periods and then asked to play a number of games within a short spell.’
    period, time, interval, season, stretch, run, course, round, span, streak
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1A period spent in an activity.
      ‘a spell of greenhouse work’
      • ‘Leaving school at 13 he did the round of reform schools after a spell of teenage misdemeanours.’
      • ‘A spell of hectic activity around the Stradbally area resulted in Mick Haughney setting up Garry Powell to equalise, in the 80 minute.’
      • ‘In April, 1986, after a short spell managing a pub in Finglas, north Dublin, the Nevins opened Jack White's.’
      • ‘It was then that he began a six-year spell working full-time on Socialist Worker.’
      • ‘The second half produced some excellent spells of crisp passing from Town, but defences dominated.’
      • ‘After a short spell doing odd jobs in New Plymouth, Stan's father landed a plum job in south Taranaki.’
      • ‘Time to have the tissues on stand by to dab, what we reckon, will be a short spell of weeping in the company of Liszt.’
      • ‘Then look at the couch potato who seems ready, not for an evening in front of the TV, but for a spell of inadvertent train spotting.’
    2. 1.2Australian, NZ A period of rest from work.
      • ‘This spell from the action may well bring the front runners back to the field.’
      • ‘Just before this we had an hour's spell so we would be fresh.’
    3. 1.3Cricket
      A series of overs during a session of play in which a particular bowler bowls.
      ‘he usually produces only one good spell in a Test’
      • ‘Three Rowntrees bowlers had satisfactory spells with Dave Whittle's 3-21 being the pick of the trio.’
      • ‘I like test matches myself, with subtleties of field-placing, long bowling spells and gradual shifts in ascendancy.’
      • ‘Alley has consistently broken opposition opening partnerships with his aggressive and accurate spells of fast bowling.’
      • ‘South Africa were 2-21 at close as the Sri Lankan new-ball bowlers came up with incisive spells.’
      • ‘Sammy would again feature in that session when he came on as the first change bowler, to capture two wickets in an aggressive spell of seam bowling.’

verb

[WITH OBJECT]North american
  • 1 Allow (someone) to rest briefly by taking their place in an activity.

    ‘I got sleepy and needed her to spell me for a while at the wheel’
    • ‘People begged him to seek help, admonished him for being stubborn, for his refusal to bring in others to spell him, for his refusal ever to leave her side.’
    1. 1.1Australian, NZ [no object]Take a brief rest.
      ‘I'll spell for a bit’

Origin

Late 16th century: variant of dialect spele ‘take the place of’, of unknown origin. The early sense of the noun was ‘shift of relief workers’.

Pronunciation:

spell

/spɛl/

Main definitions of spell in English

: spell1spell2spell3spell4

spell4

noun

  • A splinter of wood.

Origin

Late Middle English: perhaps a variant of obsolete speld ‘chip, splinter’.

Pronunciation:

spell

/spɛl/