Definition of telegraph in US English:



  • 1A system for transmitting messages from a distance along a wire, especially one creating signals by making and breaking an electrical connection.

    ‘news came from the outside world by telegraph’
    • ‘There was also the Morse code telegraph system which dated from the earliest days and remained in use to supplement the telephones.’
    • ‘The train can only proceed when the line ahead is clear, as indicated back to the previous staff station by telegraph.’
    • ‘The telegraph wires had broken as well, according to the couple that had stopped by.’
    • ‘During the 1870s much of East Asia, including Australia, was linked by telegraph, though the trans-Pacific cable was not complete until 1902.’
    • ‘There were now 50,000 miles of telegraph wire in the theatre of war, making coverage more extensive and immediate.’
    • ‘For about a hundred years the principal method of long distance communication was by telegraph.’
    • ‘The transcontinental telegraph wire connecting the east and west coasts of America was completed in 1861.’
    • ‘On 11 May 1874 the residents of Callington celebrated the connection by telegraph with Adelaide.’
    • ‘The encirclement of the world by telegraph by the early 1870s represented yet another revolution in communications.’
    • ‘In 1877 the town was connected by telegraph to Adelaide but it was not until 1911 that a telephone exchange was installed.’
    • ‘However, message transmission by telegraph was a slow and sometimes uncertain way of sending information.’
    • ‘It was communication by telegraph that brought one of the biggest revolutions in weather forecasting techniques.’
    • ‘There was so much emigration in the past I remember, in the post office, people would send money home by telegraph every week.’
    • ‘The mathematical description of heat flow linked his work on thermodynamics, the cooling of the Earth and even the flow of electrical signals through telegraph wires.’
    • ‘Women as perpetrators include nearly 200 women tried as spies, smugglers, couriers, and saboteurs conducting such activity as cutting telegraph wire.’
    • ‘He was instructed to announce, if possible, his coming by telegraph and report to the medical director at the place of destination.’
    • ‘Six months after the arrival of the telegraph, all southern provinces were linked by telegraph lines.’
    • ‘Miraculously, even the telegraph wires along which Morse code messages once pulsed still dangle in the breeze.’
    • ‘The sender would tap out messages in Morse code, which would be transmitted down the telegraph wire to a human decoder translating them back into ordinary characters.’
    • ‘Trading stores were looted and telegraph wires cut.’
    1. 1.1 A device for transmitting messages by telegraph.
      • ‘You can operate an optical telegraph as used in the Napoleonic wars, crank up second world war field telephones and learn to read Morse and semaphore.’
      • ‘Not only do telegraphs remain bolted to the interior decks. but so does the binnacle and steering gear.’
      • ‘In 1832, the same year he became professor of painting and sculpture at the University of the City of New York, he drafted his first ideas for an electric telegraph.’
      • ‘Then a telegraph operator tapped out this one-word message: DONE.’
      • ‘By the 1840s, the clamor for intelligence by brokers and other investors had already resulted in a telegraph operating between New York and Philadelphia.’
      • ‘The first ‘information revolution’ involved the use of telephones and telegraphs for integrating national markets.’
      • ‘In 1832, Baron Schilling, a Russian diplomat, linked the Summer Palace of the tsar in St Petersburg to the Winter Palace using a telegraph with rotating magnetized needles.’
      • ‘The telegraph began with the first workable telegraphs in Britain and Germany around 1835, there was large-scale wiring of individual countries by 1855, and the world was linked by submarine cables by 1885.’
      • ‘Devices like the telegraph, telephone, phonograph, and radio annihilated physical and temporal distance.’
      • ‘Nanotechnology, resulting in enormous life extension and space colonization, will do for the Solar System in the 21st century what steam engines and telegraphs did for Earth in the 19th.’
      • ‘Before Japan colonized Korea in 1910, Seoul was the first city in east Asia to have electricity, trolley cars, a water system, telephones, and telegraphs.’
      • ‘Henry had a telegraph in his mill office, he knew before anybody, about the moving armies.’
      • ‘Once the codebook was established and disseminated, a telegraph could serve as such a device.’
      • ‘For those who don't know about Shannon, he was the father of information theory, which in its simplest form means he made possible the leap from telephones and telegraphs to computers.’
      • ‘It was a period of extraordinary economic transformation in the United States - the emergence of industries, railroads, and telegraphs - the first signs of a modern industrial America.’


[with object]
  • 1Send (someone) a message by telegraph.

    ‘I must go and telegraph Mom’
    • ‘In town, she telegraphs Georgie with her happy news.’
    • ‘The girls are relieved when Laurie announces that he has already telegraphed their mother and that she will be there soon.’
    • ‘He had telegraphed Washington in August 1968 asking if anyone in the American UN mission had a ‘close personal relationship’ with the man.’
    • ‘Next day I telegraphed my broker, urging him to purchase all controlling shares of the company.’
    • ‘He apologized for not telegraphing her because he was ‘constantly engaged day and night with the mob, [such] that I have not had a moment to write.’’
    • ‘William Snell also telegraphed his brother Arthur to let him know about the disappearance of their brother.’
    • ‘I told her that I would telegraph her with my reply as soon as possible.’
    • ‘And in the mean time, we can telegraph the Judge in Sacramento.’
    • ‘Fearing the worst, the girls finally telegraphed their mother of Beth's deteriorating condition.’
    1. 1.1 Send (a message) by telegraph.
      ‘she would rush off to telegraph news to her magazine’
      • ‘The Home Office has telegraphed to the police authorities intimating that a certain relaxation on the Lighting Regulation is permitted.’
      • ‘The PIC directed the removal of the power cords, which I acknowledged and telegraphed to the sergeant.’
      • ‘He may telegraph from his country much news which is unexceptionable.’
      • ‘When the special was arranged for, my agent instantly telegraphed to me and warned me how soon I should have everything ready.’
      • ‘‘People are profoundly shocked here,’ Churchill telegraphed to Eisenhower that evening.’
      • ‘But when such disputation is telegraphed to a wired world in real time, it can wreak havoc with U.S. diplomacy.’
    2. 1.2 Convey (an intentional or unconscious message), especially with facial expression or body language.
      ‘a tiny movement of her arm telegraphed her intention to strike’
      • ‘She likes large gestures, preferably telegraphed in advance to cue the laugh lines.’
      • ‘Make sure that your upper body doesn't make any unnecessary movements that will telegraph your intentions to your opponent.’
      • ‘Thirdly, there is a chronic shortage of comic tension, so that when the jokes do come along, they are neither surprising, nor amusing, because they have been so clearly telegraphed.’
      • ‘Unless this strategy takes account of the realpolitik of dealings with the EU, it too runs the risk of telegraphing the Government's intentions in a way that could cost a high price in negotiations, and in the years to come.’
      • ‘How do we not telegraph to the rest of the world that we are vulnerable in some way?’
      • ‘You never want to telegraph that you underestimate in any way, shape or form your opponent's strength.’
      • ‘The story line is telegraphed from word one and the meticulous unfolding plot plods ahead inexorably without the slightest bit of suspense.’
      • ‘Sarcasm is usually pretty obvious and shouldn't need telegraphing in such a crude manner.’
      • ‘Her body language telegraphed her growing doubt.’
      • ‘Openly telegraphing the intention to change policy has become standard operating procedure there.’
      • ‘Those moments where Smith telegraphs exactly what is due next and then executes the moment perfectly are what make the film work so well.’
      • ‘Some are telegraphed halfway through the story while others come as a complete surprise.’
      • ‘He telegraphs a curious expression across the curious pseudo - restaurant that serves as the canteen in the bowels of Television Centre.’
      • ‘His body language telegraphed his torment, and in the midst of England's victory celebrations, a quiet statement went out that he would be taking an indefinite break from all forms of cricket.’
      • ‘All of this will lead to some explosive moments later in the play, but for now the easily anticipated and telegraphed surprise at the end of this scene is that Laurel is back in town, having collected Matthew on her short jaunt Outside.’
      • ‘Owners emerge, eye contact is made, body language is telegraphed.’
      • ‘It's my opinion that both these methods are turgid in the extreme and what is more, they telegraph Germany's intentions early on.’
      • ‘That's partly because policymakers have telegraphed their intentions with extraordinary clarity.’
      transmit, convey, communicate
      View synonyms


Early 18th century: from French télégraphe, from télé- ‘at a distance’ + -graphe (see -graph).