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.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Transtelephonic event monitors transmit recordings by telephone to a central station.’
    • ‘In the event of discrepancies, we followed up participants by telephone and re-checked mobile phone data.’
    • ‘Any changes of destination are notified ahead by telephone or radio so that arrival is anticipated.’
    • ‘After discharge, patients recorded and transmitted their rhythm by telephone daily and whenever they had symptoms suggestive of atrial fibrillation.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Workers communicate by voice in meetings, in hall conversations, and by telephone.’
    • ‘Some hearings may take place by telephone or video conference, reflecting an emphasis on technology.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘She too spoke to school officials when problems arose relating to the children, more frequently by telephone perhaps.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘At midnight yesterday the Government imposed full control over all communication by telephone and telegraph.’
    • ‘In the call center, customer contact is predominantly by telephone, either inbound or outbound.’
    • ‘In particular for offices, added to legacy data communication, wireless LAN has begun to be used for telephone and voice telephony services.’
    • ‘It was used in the development of the country's telephone and radio system in the 1940s.’
    • ‘Most people do not know it, but the voice coming over the telephone conveys a mental picture to the listener.’
    • ‘People spread their fears and new found information by telephone, mobile phone, text messages, email, and word of mouth.’
    • ‘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.’
    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.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Two-way voice communication systems comprise an overhead speaker system plus dedicated firefighter telephones on each floor of the building.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘All over the country, people are objecting to the siting of transmission masts for mobile telephones.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Simultaneously, passengers will be also be able to use their mobile telephones and connect to the internet.’
      • ‘The system also works with standard telephones and provides support for standard fax machines.’
      • ‘We coded anatomical areas for the tumors without knowledge of the subject's exposure to cellular or cordless telephones.’
      • ‘Councillors said they accepted that some telephone kiosks get little use because many people have mobile telephones and phones in their homes.’
      • ‘Paging mechanisms were created to activate sleeping mobile telephones to receive incoming calls.’
      • ‘In particular, one respondent noted the difficulty posed by telephones with keypads on the handset.’
      • ‘Computers, printers, telephones, answering machines, and a fax machine and scanner were stolen.’
      • ‘Systems and methods which enable fast and simple identification of unauthorized users of cellular telephones are described.’
      • ‘Analysts use link analysis to understand better the telephone records of contacts between telephones, cellular phones, pagers, computers, and fax machines.’
      • ‘There has been a sharp increase in expenditure on entertainment, education, cultural activities, transportation and communications, telephones and mobile phones.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘At the time when the respective instruments were drafted, telephones and computer bases had not been invented.’
      • ‘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.’
      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
    • ‘Stories are put out just like this one and a virtual game of telephone begins.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘‘We could play a game, like telephone or truth or dare,’ suggested Mallory.’
    • ‘Do you remember the telephone game from elementary school?’


  • 1Contact (someone) using the telephone.

    ‘he telephoned his wife at 9.30’
    • ‘The respondent regularly telephoned his wife for her to arrange a taxi to collect him.’
    • ‘Activists ring doorbells and telephone voters in critical districts, urging supporters to get out the vote.’
    • ‘We gave no second thought to one of these youngsters using a cellphone to telephone his mom to come pick them up.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Shortly after telephoning his wife and several friends in Italy, he was rearrested by the Egyptian government.’
    • ‘‘I'll telephone you as soon as I've spoken to my friend, Mrs Hawthorne,’ she said.’
    • ‘She became worried and attempted to telephone her husband but his mobile phone was switched off.’
    • ‘I didn't have a mobile phone to telephone my husband and so they said they would go to my house and get him.’
    • ‘You promised my wife that you would telephone me within the next two days which did not happen.’
    • ‘It is not uncommon for people to telephone friends or relations who say that they were just thinking of calling them.’
    • ‘On a Friday evening before Easter the man's wife telephoned the doctor but he was out.’
    • ‘The telephone socket was not connected so one of the neighbour's telephoned the police on her own mobile.’
    • ‘Please telephone him to arrange a suitable time and to indicate if you would like to have your house blessed.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘‘My wife was at home so I telephoned her,’ he said.’
    • ‘‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    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’
      • ‘‘It's not like I need the money,’ the woman had said when Wendy telephoned for information and gasped at the cost.’
      • ‘The priest was able to telephone for help in spite of his serious injuries.’
      • ‘Then one day, her lawyer telephoned to say she was dead.’
      • ‘Following the Boxing Day tsunami, Jo-Anne was quick to telephone to say they were okay.’
      • ‘He had intended driving to a pub to telephone for help.’
      • ‘In the future, cell phone users will be able to use Bluetooth to telephone at home via fixed-line networks.’
      • ‘She awoke her husband who telephoned for the Fire Brigade.’
      • ‘The boy said he helped his mother up and telephoned for an ambulance.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I had telephoned for the ambulance and was looking out for it when I saw the policeman.’
      • ‘Fifty researchers telephoned for a loan or credit card with each of these four lenders, making a total of 200 calls.’
    2. 1.2 Send (a message) by telephone.
      ‘Barbara had telephoned the news’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’


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