SKIP TO CONTENT

telephone

A telephone is an electronic device that you use for conversations over great distances. Telephones used to be fixed to walls and connected by cables, but now most people have cellular telephones, known as cell phones or mobiles.

A telephone takes sound waves, converts it into electronic signals, and then converts that back into sound waves — pretty neat. Early telephones frightened people because it seemed spooky that someone not in the room (or even the country) could speak to you, but nowadays distant communication seems perfectly normal. If your mother asks you to telephone her, she wants you to give her a call. The word comes from the Greek words for "afar" (tele-) and "voice"(phone).

Definitions of telephone
  1. noun
    electronic equipment that converts sound into electrical signals that can be transmitted over distances and then converts received signals back into sounds
    “I talked to him on the telephone
    synonyms: phone, telephone set
    see moresee less
    types:
    show 8 types...
    hide 8 types...
    desk phone
    a telephone set that sits on a desk or table
    dial phone, dial telephone
    a telephone with a dial for registering the number to be called
    extension, extension phone, telephone extension
    an additional telephone set that is connected to the same telephone line
    French telephone, handset
    telephone set with the mouthpiece and earpiece mounted on a single handle
    pay-phone, pay-station
    a coin-operated telephone
    radiophone, radiotelephone, wireless telephone
    a telephone that communicates by radio waves rather than along cables
    speakerphone
    a telephone with a microphone and loudspeaker; can be used without picking up a handset; several people can participate in a call at the same time
    cell, cellphone, cellular phone, cellular telephone, mobile phone
    a hand-held mobile radiotelephone for use in an area divided into small sections, each with its own short-range transmitter/receiver
    type of:
    electronic equipment, electronics
    equipment that involves the controlled conduction of electrons (especially in a gas or vacuum or semiconductor)
  2. noun
    transmitting speech at a distance
    synonyms: telephony
    see moresee less
    types:
    show 12 types...
    hide 12 types...
    voice mail, voicemail
    a computerized system for answering and routing telephone calls; telephone messages can be recorded and stored and relayed
    call, phone call, telephone call
    a telephone connection
    call forwarding
    lets you transfer your incoming calls to any telephone that you can dial direct
    call waiting
    a way of letting you know that someone else is calling when you are using your telephone
    call-back
    a return call
    collect call
    a telephone call that the receiving party is asked to pay for
    call-in
    a telephone call to a radio station or a television station in which the caller participates in the on-going program
    crank call
    a hostile telephone call (from a crank)
    local call
    a telephone call made within a local calling area
    long distance, long-distance call, trunk call
    a telephone call made outside the local calling area
    conference call
    a telephone call in which more than two people participate
    wake-up call
    a telephone call that you request be made a specific time in order to wake you up at that time (especially in hotels)
    type of:
    telecom, telecommunication
    (often plural) systems used in transmitting messages over a distance electronically
  3. verb
    get or try to get into communication (with someone) by telephone
    synonyms: call, call up, phone, ring
    call
    send a message or attempt to reach someone by radio, phone, etc.; make a signal to in order to transmit a message
    see moresee less
    types:
    cell phone
    call up by using a cellular phone
    call in
    make a phone call
    type of:
    telecommunicate
    communicate over long distances, as via the telephone or e-mail
Word Family
EDITOR’S CHOICE

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by Vocabulary.com’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.

SAT/PSAT

$29.95
  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week

TOEFL

$29.95
  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week

ACT

$29.95
  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week