Main definitions of spell in US 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’
    • ‘I had been in such a hurry to get out of that office I probably hadn't even spelt half the words right.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘There is, for example, scarcely a Welsh name which is correctly spelt.’
    • ‘See how many words you can spell with these letters in one minute.’
    • ‘The address was spelled out in newspaper letters.’
    • ‘Note that they even spelt the company name wrong in the body of the email!’
    • ‘The present study investigated how children spell words that contain silent consonants as their final letter.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Did you make sure you spelt my name correctly?’
    • ‘The first twenty pages of my first book are filled with nothing but hundreds of attempts to learn to write and spell my name.’
    • ‘Lee probably couldn't even spell the word subterfuge let alone actually use it as a method of gleaning accurate information.’
    • ‘Several immigrants didn't know how to write or spell their own names, so immigration inspectors created one for them.’
    • ‘The pen can sense when you spell a word wrong and it gives you suggestions on the screen.’
    • ‘She is teaching him to spell the word ‘quarantine’ letter by letter.’
    • ‘For example, in learning to spell and recognize words, a student may be asked to see, say, write, and spell each new word.’
    • ‘It was funny how some couldn't spell the simplest word or even make a complete sentence!’
    • ‘In her opinion, it was even money on whether or not he could correctly spell his own name.’
    • ‘I actually learned how to spell his name before mine.’
    • ‘I don't care if you hate writing and have a hard time spelling your name.’
    1. 1.1 (of letters) make up or form (a word)
      ‘the letters spell the word “how.”’
      • ‘Brass lettering spelled SUPERINTENDENT on it, and Spade rapped loudly on the wood.’
      • ‘If you hadn't already noticed, the first letter of each rule spells out the word kitchen.’
      • ‘While you're at it, try and decipher what the letters spell out.’
      • ‘The first team to lose five hands, thus getting five letters spelling the whole word K-E-M-P-S loses the game.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He didn't care about the numbers, but the letters clearly spelled something.’
      • ‘So I started shooting photos that incorporate big letters spelling a holiday greeting and used them to illustrate our Christmas newsletter.’
      • ‘Little letters spelt out his birth date and the whole book was decorated in blue and green pieces of paper and sparkly letters.’
      • ‘The letters spelling out Canadian Security Investigative Service were in big white bold letters around the circumference of the circle.’
      • ‘I brought a large book to my office; its title, A Black History of America, was spelled out in gold letters.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Faded gold lettering spelled out the words, ‘The Lore of the Navy.’’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Huge upholstered foam letters ring the gallery space, spelling the word HOPE in English, French, Hebrew and Arabic.’
      • ‘I liked the black letters that were sparkly and spelled the word, ‘hottie’.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Hung unevenly along the wall, the topsy-turvy letters spelling Water decline toward the floor in a symbolic cascade.’
      • ‘Each picture is a grid of 16 photographs headed by letters spelling out an obscene word or provocative statement.’
    2. 1.2 Be recognizable as a sign or characteristic of.
      ‘she had the chic, efficient look that spells Milan’
    3. 1.3 Lead to.
      ‘the plans would spell disaster for the economy’
      • ‘But Harris is confident the newer company artists will spell success for the galleries who sign on.’
      • ‘Publicity surrounding the case spelled disaster for the Queensland dive industry.’
      • ‘Failure to resolve this last issue quickly and effectively would have spelled disaster for the plan.’
      • ‘Such an event would spell disaster for the remainder of their journey.’
      • ‘Conservation experts say it spells disaster for cod stocks as talks continued last night.’
      • ‘The event could have spelled disaster for the little grocery store.’
      • ‘Despite good results in lesser matches, that World Cup defeat spelt the end of Thorne's captaincy.’
      • ‘That can spell disaster for an individual's health.’
      • ‘For everyone else, however, it spells disaster.’
      • ‘Schemes such as interlinking of rivers could spell disaster for the environment, as they represent gross interference with natural processes, he says.’
      • ‘In effect, the very characteristics that make it prosper at one time may spell its downfall at a later time.’
      • ‘And that could really spell disaster when property taxes are also going up.’
      • ‘This spells disaster for aquatic life unable to adjust to the altered conditions.’
      • ‘This gross over-development for such a small, unique city spells disaster.’
      • ‘Slow economic times don't have to spell disaster for your business.’
      • ‘The variable that promised to spell disaster for Iowa farmers was the high seed costs associated with GM crops.’
      • ‘And if he has to hike our taxes in the middle of a consumer downturn, it could spell disaster.’
      • ‘Now she had concocted a plan that would spell doom for Shirley, her revenge for taking her man and insulting her pride.’
      • ‘When things don't go as planned, debt can spell trouble.’
      • ‘Introducing a new leading character can spell disaster or triumph for an author.’
      lead to, result in, bring about, bring on, cause, be the cause of
      View synonyms

Phrasal Verbs

  • spell something out

    • 1Speak the letters that form a word in sequence.

      • ‘Sarah practically spelled the words out to him and he showed no signs of knowing what the hell she was talking about.’
      • ‘I spelled the words out for my dad, but he didn't know what they meant either.’
      • ‘She spelt the word out in her head, but sometimes it turned into farther.’
      • ‘At this rate, I would be surprised if she started spelling the words out for us.’
      • ‘After we talked about each of the words, we spelled them out loud.’
      • ‘I was communicating by spelling things out on a letter board.’
      1. 1.1Explain something in detail.
        ‘I'll spell out the problem again’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘The ads urged viewers to visit a website set up especially for the campaign, where the message was spelt out even further.’
        • ‘He said his plans will be spelled out in more detail in the strategy he will present to the EU later this week.’
        • ‘But laser eye surgery has caused controversy because of claims that the risks are not spelt out to consumers.’
        • ‘This is the first time many of these steps have been spelled out publicly.’
        • ‘Who needs conspiracy theories when things are spelt out as clearly as this?’
        • ‘The details of the agreement will be spelled out in a contract.’
        • ‘It is important that certain facts are spelt out to the public.’
        explain, make clear, make plain, elucidate, clarify
        View synonyms

Origin

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

Pronunciation

spell

/spel//spɛl/

Main definitions of spell in US English:

: spell1spell2spell3spell4

spell2

noun

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

    • ‘Taukat showed his agreement by muttering the words of a spell and conjuring a cloud of acid rain over the unsuspecting targets.’
    • ‘She ducked under another sword as she spoke the words of a spell.’
    • ‘She uttered a few words of a spell, and, with a small flash, disappeared.’
    • ‘Immediately, the High Cleric began chanting a spell, her words echoed throughout the room in each syllable.’
    • ‘Any spell you could ever want to find is in this book.’
    • ‘It wasn't quite the same as when a sorcerer used high level spells, but the words were still unintelligible.’
    • ‘But how could one concentrate on words for creating spells when another mutter curses on you?’
    • ‘She began to chant the words for the earthquake spell.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘She then said the final words to her spell and pointed to Tona.’
    • ‘All they talk about are spells and famous mages.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘We will be accumulating success in word spells and practicing the pronunciation of the difficult language Char.’
    • ‘She finally shouted out the final word of her spell, and it was gone.’
    • ‘It sounded nasty, but I didn't know if it was a spell or a swear word.’
    • ‘I suspect that he was the one to teach you fire spells.’
    • ‘Yet, she struggled to remember the word to the spell.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Whispering the last word of the spell, he tapped the picture.’
    • ‘Kyri was mumbling the words to a spell which she finished by laying her hand on Aikel's arm.’
    incantation, charm, conjuration, rune, magic formula
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A state of enchantment caused by a magic spell.
      ‘the magician may cast a spell on himself’
      • ‘The figure cast a spell on Adrian, Beltrax, and Talia, teleporting them to an alcove within the dungeon.’
      • ‘I quickly cast a spell on my rod, blazing the magic back to the Shadow.’
      • ‘I cast a spell on us right before I drifted off to sleep.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Raven had cast a spell on them, killing them with the fire of hell.’
      • ‘Luckily I cast a spell on the clothes so you can't take them off.’
      • ‘Then she cast a spell on me to make me float in the air, and she hovered right near me.’
      • ‘It felt like she had cast a spell on him, entrancing and beckoning him.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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 was looking for the witch that cast a spell on the beautiful princess of this land.’
      • ‘It was perfectly safe; he had cast a spell on the fireball so it wouldn't burn anybody.’
      • ‘He was almost contented when Maura cast a spell on the gates, giving them even more strength.’
      • ‘Following her into the Buddhist temple and into the Yellow Dragon Cave, the Supervisor seems to cast a spell on her.’
      • ‘Klynan cast a spell on the rocks and they turned red and burned.’
      • ‘She cast a spell on you secretly so that you would be under her control.’
      • ‘Shawna and I have switched bodies because your sister cast a spell on me.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Only her father knew, but told no one since she had cast a spell on him to keep her secrets.’
    2. 1.2 An ability to control or influence people as though one had magical power over them.
      ‘she is afraid that you are waking from her spell’
      • ‘He holds a formidable spell over Esperanza and controls her until she wises up and leaves him to pursue her career.’
      • ‘It made hardly any difference; the participants fell under the same spell of this situational power.’
      • ‘He stood there stupidly, under the spell of that single word.’
      • ‘Men often fall under the spell of the power of the boob.’
      • ‘Once again, he proved that age and disease have not robbed him of the magic to cast a spell on listeners with his poems.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Only a ponderous blues lead by shaven headed bass player John Power temporarily broke the spell.’
      irresistible influence, fascination, magnetism, animal magnetism, charisma, allure, lure, charm, attraction, pull, draw, enticement, beguilement
      View synonyms

Phrases

  • under a spell

    • Not fully in control of one's thoughts and actions, as though in a state of enchantment.

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I just stood there staring dumbly like someone under a spell.’
      • ‘All she had to do was smile, and Alex would be completely taken away, more like captivated under a spell.’
      • ‘He slid to the ground silently, almost as if he were under a spell.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He looked back at Eugene who seemed to be under a spell and thoughts rushed through his mind.’
      • ‘As if under a spell or hypnotized, she couldn't escape.’
      • ‘I don't want to say under a spell, that seems trite.’
  • under someone's spell

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

      ‘throughout her long life people fell under her spell’
      • ‘He has some sort of magic that puts me under his spell.’
      • ‘If you aren't involved, don't be surprised if you pull someone new and exciting under your spell!’
      • ‘She was under his spell; mesmerized by his eyes and his voice and, most of all, by his touch.’
      • ‘And I fell under their spell, and stopped worrying about rehearsals.’
      • ‘Maybe she had used her evil powers of seduction to draw him under her spell.’
      • ‘Do you think they really are magicians casting us under their spell?’
      • ‘He was an aquaintence of the couple with an obsessive nature and had fallen under Seward 's 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.’
      • ‘When you're under a boy 's spell, it's not always easy to break.’

Origin

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

Pronunciation

spell

/spel//spɛl/

Main definitions of spell in US English:

: spell1spell2spell3spell4

spell3

noun

  • 1A short period.

    ‘I want to get away from racing for a spell’
    • ‘The Danish prison system allows those serving short sentences to be released for short spells.’
    • ‘The execution of his brother, his long spells in emigration, and the failure of the old-type revolutionaries all contributed to this difference.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He took a draught of his beer and thought for a short spell.’
    • ‘A short spell for Parnells in Dublin was the only break between 1973 and 1996.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘During my short spell in this job I have come across plenty of it.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘His early career was interrupted by various short spells in prison for violent behaviour.’
    • ‘Too many clubs have been put on hold for long periods and then asked to play a number of games within a short spell.’
    • ‘He also played factory leagues in Clare and Limerick while working in those counties for a short spell.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘They merely took advantage of it for short spells while unable to obtain other work.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Their split when she was just 19 left her with nervous exhaustion and prompted a short spell in a psychiatric ward.’
    • ‘Her husband was arrested and spent only a short spell in prison.’
    • ‘He said that judges should encourage community sentences in place of short spells in prison.’
    • ‘However, he was married for a short spell while he was living in County Kerry.’
    • ‘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.’
    period, time, interval, season, stretch, run, course, round, span, streak
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A period spent in an activity.
      ‘a spell of greenhouse work’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The second half produced some excellent spells of crisp passing from Town, but defences dominated.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It was then that he began a six-year spell working full-time on Socialist Worker.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘After a short spell doing odd jobs in New Plymouth, Stan's father landed a plum job in south Taranaki.’
      • ‘Leaving school at 13 he did the round of reform schools after a spell of teenage misdemeanours.’
      stint, turn, stretch, session, term
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 A period of a specified kind of weather.
      ‘an early cold spell in autumn’
      • ‘Though the short spell of summer rain in the city had on Monday night helped to bring down the heat to some extent, the mercury level soared during the morning hours.’
      • ‘If we get another spell of wet weather this summer, I recommend it as an escape.’
      • ‘During this current cold spell of weather do check on your neighbour - you may be in a position to help them in some small way.’
      • ‘In the past elderly tenants had died during cold spells of weather.’
      • ‘You may know exactly how much to water the plant but if you have a rainy spell it could be the demise of the mini garden that has no drainage system.’
      • ‘But the sudden, heavy rain that broke a dry spell cracked open whole clusters of cherry tomatoes.’
      • ‘Despite being in the middle of fall, New York City had taken to a spell of cold weather that threatened to bring snow early.’
      • ‘Making the most of this fine spell of weather, students have already enjoyed two trips to nearby woods where great fun was had by all.’
      • ‘With the recent spell of cool wet weather, poor stands are becoming evident in some soybean fields.’
      • ‘Officials say steady rain, warm conditions and only short dry spells are combining to wreck the quality of both cereals and oil seed rape.’
      • ‘Raised beds do warm up faster, but if you raise the beds more than a couple inches, they will require more water during dry spells.’
      • ‘And we have been having a bizarre weather spell lately.’
      • ‘In fact he has been very busy over the past couple of weekends due to the unexpected good spell of weather.’
      • ‘If an excessive amount does emerge, wait for another cold spell.’
      • ‘Patience is a virtue demonstrated by the old-timers in our mountain valley, who are less likely to hurry to plant even during unusual warm spells.’
      • ‘Crops, farms and forests would all be affected by these dry spells, leading to the possibility that some species may struggle to adapt to these new living conditions.’
      • ‘Water regularly during dry spells and spread mulch around plants to keep roots cool and moist.’
      • ‘Most need watering for the first year or two, then an occasional watering during dry spells.’
      • ‘A long unprecedented spell of dry weather has been broken at last.’
      • ‘During this very cold spell of weather, parishioners are asked to be a good neighbour and call in and keep an eye on senior citizens, especially those living alone in the parish.’
    3. 1.3 A period of suffering from a specified kind of illness.
      ‘she plunges off a yacht and suffers a spell of amnesia’
      • ‘It is nice to hear that Bridie is back to health after a recent spell of illness and all her family and friends wish her a very happy birthday.’
      • ‘Mr Chorlton and Rogerson had to be freed from the cab by firefighters and Mr Chorlton still suffered sporadic spells of dizziness, said Mr Humphries.’
      • ‘Burkhard composed prolifically in spite of spells of illness.’
      • ‘Since the accident, which happened outside her home in Brook Street, Erith, the mum-of-one suffers from dizzy spells and reduced vision.’
      • ‘Although he has regained much of his balance and co-ordination, he still suffers lapses in speech and hearing and can suffer dizzy spells.’
      • ‘Each morning she suffered nauseous spells and spent nearly the whole morning with her head in a chamber pot because of it.’
      • ‘He tirelessly promotes and fund raises for the club and despite a spell of serious illness, remained involved and totally dedicated.’
      • ‘It is known that Albert has recently been experiencing dizzy spells and fainting fits, but he has not sought medical treatment.’
      • ‘Sadly however Paddy has passed away last week after a spell of illness and will join his brother in that Lilywhite stand in the sky for Sundays Leinster final.’
      • ‘He experienced considerable headaches, loss of short-term and new memory, loss of concentration and dizzy spells.’
      • ‘In July 1999 he began suffering dizzy spells, resulting in loss of balance, and painful headaches.’
      • ‘Your hospital insurance provides 60 days of fully covered hospital care, per spell of illness, after you have met a deductible.’
    4. 1.4Australian, 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.’

verb

[with object]North American
  • 1Allow (someone) to rest briefly by taking their place in some 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. 1.1NZ, Australian 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

/spel//spɛl/

Main definitions of spell in US English:

: spell1spell2spell3spell4

spell4

noun

  • A splinter of wood.

Origin

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

Pronunciation

spell

/spel//spɛl/