Definition of telephone in English:



  • 1[mass noun] A system for transmitting voices over a distance using wire or radio, by converting acoustic vibrations to electrical signals:

    [as modifier] ‘a telephone call’
    • ‘General practitioners and patients were contacted by telephone to assess their satisfaction with the system and to determine whether further referrals for excision had been made.’
    • ‘In doing so, data can be captured at every point of customer contact from order entry to fulfilment whether that contact is by telephone, fax, call center or Web site.’
    • ‘Viewers will also get their chance to listen to the arguments and express their opinion - voting either online, via digital television or by telephone during the programme.’
    • ‘For industrial and speciality chemicals, the suppliers acted more like catalogue sellers - their sales force responded to orders by telephone, telex, and more recently fax.’
    • ‘She too spoke to school officials when problems arose relating to the children, more frequently by telephone perhaps.’
    • ‘Households that did not return surveys in a ten days were contacted by telephone and were encouraged to either return the survey in the mail or complete the survey over the telephone.’
    • ‘In the event of discrepancies, we followed up participants by telephone and re-checked mobile phone data.’
    • ‘After discharge, patients recorded and transmitted their rhythm by telephone daily and whenever they had symptoms suggestive of atrial fibrillation.’
    • ‘In particular for offices, added to legacy data communication, wireless LAN has begun to be used for telephone and voice telephony services.’
    • ‘Workers communicate by voice in meetings, in hall conversations, and by telephone.’
    • ‘It was used in the development of the country's telephone and radio system in the 1940s.’
    • ‘Some hearings may take place by telephone or video conference, reflecting an emphasis on technology.’
    • ‘People spread their fears and new found information by telephone, mobile phone, text messages, email, and word of mouth.’
    • ‘Information theory is a field of mathematics that scientists use to analyse strings of data, whether carried by DNA or radio waves or telephone wires.’
    • ‘It was the only form of communication, as no radio or telephone, television, video or film existed then.’
    • ‘In the call center, customer contact is predominantly by telephone, either inbound or outbound.’
    • ‘Any changes of destination are notified ahead by telephone or radio so that arrival is anticipated.’
    • ‘At midnight yesterday the Government imposed full control over all communication by telephone and telegraph.’
    • ‘Transtelephonic event monitors transmit recordings by telephone to a central station.’
    • ‘Most people do not know it, but the voice coming over the telephone conveys a mental picture to the listener.’
    1. 1.1[count noun] An instrument used as part of a telephone system, typically a single unit including a handset with a transmitting microphone and a set of numbered buttons by which a connection can be made to another such instrument:
      ‘it was eight-thirty when the telephone rang, and I knew it was Chandler’
      [as modifier] ‘a telephone receiver’
      • ‘All over the country, people are objecting to the siting of transmission masts for mobile telephones.’
      • ‘The bay station, scheduled to be in action by the end of next month, will enable owners of so-called third generation mobile telephones to make video telephone calls.’
      • ‘Paging mechanisms were created to activate sleeping mobile telephones to receive incoming calls.’
      • ‘It will let people collect voice mail and receive calls from regular telephones.’
      • ‘In particular, one respondent noted the difficulty posed by telephones with keypads on the handset.’
      • ‘He had been exposed to microwaves from cellular telephones and cordless telephones for several years.’
      • ‘Communication with other hospitals and external agencies occurred via land lines and cellular telephones, which use satellite communication systems.’
      • ‘Analysts use link analysis to understand better the telephone records of contacts between telephones, cellular phones, pagers, computers, and fax machines.’
      • ‘Then, live every Friday, the contestants will be given free access to a number of telephones, mobile phones with text facilities, and interactive digital TV sets.’
      • ‘At the time when the respective instruments were drafted, telephones and computer bases had not been invented.’
      • ‘We coded anatomical areas for the tumors without knowledge of the subject's exposure to cellular or cordless telephones.’
      • ‘Two-way voice communication systems comprise an overhead speaker system plus dedicated firefighter telephones on each floor of the building.’
      • ‘There has been a sharp increase in expenditure on entertainment, education, cultural activities, transportation and communications, telephones and mobile phones.’
      • ‘The system also works with standard telephones and provides support for standard fax machines.’
      • ‘One of the contentious clauses is that service providers must, at their own cost, make their technology compatible so that the state can tap into customers' telephones, cellular phones and e-mails.’
      • ‘Simultaneously, passengers will be also be able to use their mobile telephones and connect to the internet.’
      • ‘The research programme will also include work on emerging technologies, such as third generation mobile telephones, which are due to be released this year.’
      • ‘Computers, printers, telephones, answering machines, and a fax machine and scanner were stolen.’
      • ‘Councillors said they accepted that some telephone kiosks get little use because many people have mobile telephones and phones in their homes.’
      • ‘Systems and methods which enable fast and simple identification of unauthorized users of cellular telephones are described.’
      phone, handset, receiver
      handset, earpiece, receiver
      View synonyms


  • 1 Contact (someone) using the telephone:

    ‘he telephoned his wife at 9.30’
    • ‘I didn't have a mobile phone to telephone my husband and so they said they would go to my house and get him.’
    • ‘‘People were telephoning us and asking us what they could do to help or if there was any information - it was almost like a big family,’ she said.’
    • ‘You promised my wife that you would telephone me within the next two days which did not happen.’
    • ‘Adams immediately telephoned the police but when officers searched the area they found nothing.’
    • ‘It is not uncommon for people to telephone friends or relations who say that they were just thinking of calling them.’
    • ‘‘My wife was at home so I telephoned her,’ he said.’
    • ‘The respondent regularly telephoned his wife for her to arrange a taxi to collect him.’
    • ‘Shortly after telephoning his wife and several friends in Italy, he was rearrested by the Egyptian government.’
    • ‘If all your questions haven't been answered after your allotted slot, ask if you can book another appointment to come in, or arrange to telephone the teacher at school.’
    • ‘The telephone socket was not connected so one of the neighbour's telephoned the police on her own mobile.’
    • ‘She became worried and attempted to telephone her husband but his mobile phone was switched off.’
    • ‘On Thursday, his colleague telephoned his wife to inquire and found her responses suspicious.’
    • ‘She wishes to express her sincerest thanks to all the people who telephoned her and called to her to assist in the updating of records.’
    • ‘Please telephone him to arrange a suitable time and to indicate if you would like to have your house blessed.’
    • ‘‘I'll telephone you as soon as I've spoken to my friend, Mrs Hawthorne,’ she said.’
    • ‘We then telephoned patients who opted in to arrange an appointment.’
    • ‘The school also telephoned the applicant's wife, who thought the applicant was at work.’
    • ‘We gave no second thought to one of these youngsters using a cellphone to telephone his mom to come pick them up.’
    • ‘On a Friday evening before Easter the man's wife telephoned the doctor but he was out.’
    • ‘Activists ring doorbells and telephone voters in critical districts, urging supporters to get out the vote.’
    phone, call, get someone on the phone, get on the phone to, get, reach, dial, make a call to, place a call to
    ring up, ring, give someone a ring
    call up, give someone a call, give someone a buzz, buzz
    give someone a bell, bell, give someone a tinkle, get on the blower to
    get someone on the horn
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1[no object] Make a telephone call:
      ‘she telephoned for help’
      • ‘A bereaved mother claims she was driven to the brink of suicide after an out-of-hours doctor fired questions at her about her daughter's tragic death when she telephoned for help.’
      • ‘He had intended driving to a pub to telephone for help.’
      • ‘As usual, she telephoned for help and the paternal grandparents drove to Kingston to pick the children up.’
      • ‘The boy said he helped his mother up and telephoned for an ambulance.’
      • ‘Fifty researchers telephoned for a loan or credit card with each of these four lenders, making a total of 200 calls.’
      • ‘Then one day, her lawyer telephoned to say she was dead.’
      • ‘Mr Jones telephoned for an ambulance while his son went over to the victim - who had landed on a concrete walkway next to a raised grass verge - to see if anything could be done to help him.’
      • ‘She awoke her husband who telephoned for the Fire Brigade.’
      • ‘In the future, cell phone users will be able to use Bluetooth to telephone at home via fixed-line networks.’
      • ‘Following the Boxing Day tsunami, Jo-Anne was quick to telephone to say they were okay.’
      • ‘I had telephoned for the ambulance and was looking out for it when I saw the policeman.’
      • ‘Meanwhile, police yesterday denied media reports that the woman had telephoned for help eight hours before the murders were discovered, but that her pleas had been ignored.’
      • ‘The priest was able to telephone for help in spite of his serious injuries.’
      • ‘The man, who has not been named, was found unconscious in the Street after a woman telephoned for an ambulance but he was so badly injured that he could not be interviewed by detectives for three days.’
      • ‘‘It's not like I need the money,’ the woman had said when Wendy telephoned for information and gasped at the cost.’
    2. 1.2 Send (a message) by telephone:
      ‘Barbara had telephoned the news’
      • ‘However, the defendant's evidence was that she telephoned her ticket request to the Red Cross from the lottery shop with the knowledge and assent of her daughter, who owned the store.’
      • ‘Traditionally, the results of emergency biochemistry and haematology requests have been telephoned by laboratory staff to the requesting clinician or ward area as soon as a specimen has been analysed.’
      • ‘Orlando folk can e-mail or telephone their gripes about what's wrong with life.’
      • ‘You may write in, e-mail or telephone your choice.’
      • ‘The counter employee took messages, which were telephoned to the main telegraphy office in Manchester.’


  • on the telephone

    • 1Using the telephone:

      ‘I spent the afternoon on the telephone’
      • ‘It didn't stop Brian and myself spending half an hour discussing this issue this afternoon on the telephone.’
      • ‘That afternoon the Corporal spoke again to the appellant on the telephone.’
      • ‘You may give too much away on the telephone, it is easy to get carried away and it is not always easy to remember exactly what was said.’
      • ‘I'd flick through my telephone book and escape my confines by chatting on the telephone to people in England.’
      • ‘He has been on the telephone to his wife for at least half of the time.’
      • ‘I spent the return journey from Hanover on the telephone.’
      • ‘There were also criticisms that he was spending time on the telephone, apparently directly related to his ongoing dispute against the Authority.’
      • ‘The irony I found was that he is perfectly at home talking on the telephone or sending text messages.’
      • ‘He had also spent several hours on the telephone to her the previous afternoon.’
      • ‘He had just spent two hours on the telephone with the Bishop discussing various sections of the Bible in excruciatingly fine detail.’
    • 2Connected to a telephone system:

      ‘if they were not on the telephone, an officer had to deliver the message in person’
      • ‘If the member is not on the telephone when joining the rota payment for installation will be made by the University.’
      • ‘1 would write a letter to Mary that day (they were not on the telephone) expressing my concern about her and the current situation.’


Mid 19th century: from tele- + -phone.