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.

    • ‘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 particular for offices, added to legacy data communication, wireless LAN has begun to be used for telephone and voice telephony services.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘After discharge, patients recorded and transmitted their rhythm by telephone daily and whenever they had symptoms suggestive of atrial fibrillation.’
    • ‘People spread their fears and new found information by telephone, mobile phone, text messages, email, and word of mouth.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘At midnight yesterday the Government imposed full control over all communication by telephone and telegraph.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In the event of discrepancies, we followed up participants by telephone and re-checked mobile phone data.’
    • ‘She too spoke to school officials when problems arose relating to the children, more frequently by telephone perhaps.’
    • ‘It was used in the development of the country's telephone and radio system in the 1940s.’
    • ‘Any changes of destination are notified ahead by telephone or radio so that arrival is anticipated.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Workers communicate by voice in meetings, in hall conversations, and by telephone.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Some hearings may take place by telephone or video conference, reflecting an emphasis on technology.’
    • ‘Most people do not know it, but the voice coming over the telephone conveys a mental picture to the listener.’
    1. 1.1An 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.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Two-way voice communication systems comprise an overhead speaker system plus dedicated firefighter telephones on each floor of the building.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘We coded anatomical areas for the tumors without knowledge of the subject's exposure to cellular or cordless telephones.’
      • ‘The system also works with standard telephones and provides support for standard fax machines.’
      • ‘Paging mechanisms were created to activate sleeping mobile telephones to receive incoming calls.’
      • ‘All over the country, people are objecting to the siting of transmission masts for mobile telephones.’
      • ‘Analysts use link analysis to understand better the telephone records of contacts between telephones, cellular phones, pagers, computers, and fax machines.’
      • ‘In particular, one respondent noted the difficulty posed by telephones with keypads on the handset.’
      • ‘Communication with other hospitals and external agencies occurred via land lines and cellular telephones, which use satellite communication systems.’
      • ‘It will let people collect voice mail and receive calls from regular telephones.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘There has been a sharp increase in expenditure on entertainment, education, cultural activities, transportation and communications, telephones and mobile phones.’
      • ‘Simultaneously, passengers will be also be able to use their mobile telephones and connect to the internet.’
      • ‘He had been exposed to microwaves from cellular telephones and cordless telephones for several years.’
      • ‘Councillors said they accepted that some telephone kiosks get little use because many people have mobile telephones and phones in their homes.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The research programme will also include work on emerging technologies, such as third generation mobile telephones, which are due to be released this year.’
      • ‘At the time when the respective instruments were drafted, telephones and computer bases had not been invented.’
      phone, handset, receiver
      handset, earpiece, 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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Do you remember the telephone game from elementary school?’


  • 1 Contact (someone) using the telephone.

    ‘he telephoned his wife at 9.30’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘We gave no second thought to one of these youngsters using a cellphone to telephone his mom to come pick them up.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘You promised my wife that you would telephone me within the next two days which did not happen.’
    • ‘The telephone socket was not connected so one of the neighbour's telephoned the police on her own mobile.’
    • ‘‘My wife was at home so I telephoned her,’ he said.’
    • ‘On a Friday evening before Easter the man's wife telephoned the doctor but he was out.’
    • ‘I didn't have a mobile phone to telephone my husband and so they said they would go to my house and get him.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Please telephone him to arrange a suitable time and to indicate if you would like to have your house blessed.’
    • ‘‘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.’
    • ‘Activists ring doorbells and telephone voters in critical districts, urging supporters to get out the vote.’
    • ‘She became worried and attempted to telephone her husband but his mobile phone was switched off.’
    • ‘The respondent regularly telephoned his wife for her to arrange a taxi to collect him.’
    • ‘On Thursday, his colleague telephoned his wife to inquire and found her responses suspicious.’
    • ‘Adams immediately telephoned the police but when officers searched the area they found nothing.’
    • ‘We then telephoned patients who opted in to arrange an appointment.’
    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’
      • ‘I had telephoned for the ambulance and was looking out for it when I saw the policeman.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Fifty researchers telephoned for a loan or credit card with each of these four lenders, making a total of 200 calls.’
      • ‘‘It's not like I need the money,’ the woman had said when Wendy telephoned for information and gasped at the cost.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘As usual, she telephoned for help and the paternal grandparents drove to Kingston to pick the children up.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The boy said he helped his mother up and telephoned for an ambulance.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Then one day, her lawyer telephoned to say she was dead.’
      • ‘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 priest was able to telephone for help in spite of his serious injuries.’
    2. 1.2Send (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.’
      • ‘Orlando folk can e-mail or telephone their gripes about what's wrong with life.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘You may write in, e-mail or telephone your choice.’


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