Definition of telephone in English:



  • 1A system that converts acoustic vibrations to electrical signals in order to transmit sound, typically voices, over a distance using wire or radio.

    • ‘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 the call center, customer contact is predominantly by telephone, either inbound or outbound.’
    • ‘Workers communicate by voice in meetings, in hall conversations, and by telephone.’
    • ‘Most people do not know it, but the voice coming over the telephone conveys a mental picture to the listener.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In the event of discrepancies, we followed up participants by telephone and re-checked mobile phone data.’
    • ‘It was used in the development of the country's telephone and radio system in the 1940s.’
    • ‘Transtelephonic event monitors transmit recordings by telephone to a central station.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘She too spoke to school officials when problems arose relating to the children, more frequently by telephone perhaps.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It was the only form of communication, as no radio or telephone, television, video or film existed then.’
    1. 1.1 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.
      • ‘There has been a sharp increase in expenditure on entertainment, education, cultural activities, transportation and communications, telephones and mobile phones.’
      • ‘Systems and methods which enable fast and simple identification of unauthorized users of cellular telephones are described.’
      • ‘Communication with other hospitals and external agencies occurred via land lines and cellular telephones, which use satellite communication systems.’
      • ‘Two-way voice communication systems comprise an overhead speaker system plus dedicated firefighter telephones on each floor of the building.’
      • ‘All over the country, people are objecting to the siting of transmission masts for mobile telephones.’
      • ‘The system also works with standard telephones and provides support for standard fax machines.’
      • ‘Simultaneously, passengers will be also be able to use their mobile telephones and connect to the internet.’
      • ‘Analysts use link analysis to understand better the telephone records of contacts between telephones, cellular phones, pagers, computers, and fax machines.’
      • ‘Computers, printers, telephones, answering machines, and a fax machine and scanner were stolen.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘In particular, one respondent noted the difficulty posed by telephones with keypads on the handset.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The research programme will also include work on emerging technologies, such as third generation mobile telephones, which are due to be released this year.’
      • ‘Councillors said they accepted that some telephone kiosks get little use because many people have mobile telephones and phones in their homes.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He had been exposed to microwaves from cellular telephones and cordless telephones for several years.’
      phone, handset, receiver
      View synonyms
  • 2US A game in which a sentence or phrase becomes distorted by being passed along to the next person in a whisper.

    Also called Chinese whispers
    • ‘‘We could play a game, like telephone or truth or dare,’ suggested Mallory.’
    • ‘Do you remember the telephone game from elementary school?’
    • ‘It seems at least as likely that the whole allegation is a gigantic game of telephone where the prisoners exchanged stories, the stories got retold and this is where it all ended up.’
    • ‘Stories are put out just like this one and a virtual game of telephone begins.’


  • 1Contact (someone) using the telephone.

    ‘he telephoned his wife at 9.30’
    • ‘Shortly after telephoning his wife and several friends in Italy, he was rearrested by the Egyptian government.’
    • ‘‘My wife was at home so I telephoned her,’ he said.’
    • ‘I didn't have a mobile phone to telephone my husband and so they said they would go to my house and get him.’
    • ‘On Thursday, his colleague telephoned his wife to inquire and found her responses suspicious.’
    • ‘‘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.’
    • ‘Adams immediately telephoned the police but when officers searched the area they found nothing.’
    • ‘She became worried and attempted to telephone her husband but his mobile phone was switched off.’
    • ‘We then telephoned patients who opted in to arrange an appointment.’
    • ‘The telephone socket was not connected so one of the neighbour's telephoned the police on her own mobile.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The respondent regularly telephoned his wife for her to arrange a taxi to collect him.’
    • ‘On a Friday evening before Easter the man's wife telephoned the doctor but he was out.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It is not uncommon for people to telephone friends or relations who say that they were just thinking of calling them.’
    • ‘‘I'll telephone you as soon as I've spoken to my friend, Mrs Hawthorne,’ she said.’
    • ‘Activists ring doorbells and telephone voters in critical districts, urging supporters to get out the vote.’
    • ‘Please telephone him to arrange a suitable time and to indicate if you would like to have your house blessed.’
    • ‘You promised my wife that you would telephone me within the next two days which did not happen.’
    phone, call, get someone on the phone, get on the phone to, get, reach, dial, make a call to, place a call to
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1no object Make a telephone call.
      ‘she telephoned for help’
      • ‘Then one day, her lawyer telephoned to say she was dead.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘As usual, she telephoned for help and the paternal grandparents drove to Kingston to pick the children up.’
      • ‘The priest was able to telephone for help in spite of his serious injuries.’
      • ‘Fifty researchers telephoned for a loan or credit card with each of these four lenders, making a total of 200 calls.’
      • ‘He had intended driving to a pub to telephone for help.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘In the future, cell phone users will be able to use Bluetooth to telephone at home via fixed-line networks.’
      • ‘The boy said he helped his mother up and telephoned for an ambulance.’
      • ‘‘It's not like I need the money,’ the woman had said when Wendy telephoned for information and gasped at the cost.’
      • ‘I had telephoned for the ambulance and was looking out for it when I saw the policeman.’
      • ‘She awoke her husband who telephoned for the Fire Brigade.’
      • ‘Following the Boxing Day tsunami, Jo-Anne was quick to telephone to say they were okay.’
    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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’


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