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spell 1 (spĕl)
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v. spelled or spelt (spĕlt), spell·ing, spells
v.tr.
1. To name or write in order the letters constituting (a word).
2. To constitute the letters of (a word): These letters spell animal.
3. To add up to; signify: Their unwise investment could spell financial ruin.
v.intr.
To name or write in order the letters of a word or words: I've never been able to spell very well.
Phrasal Verbs:
spell down
To defeat in a spelling bee.
spell out
1. To make clear and explicit: asked him to spell out his objectives.
2. To name or write in order the letters that constitute (a word or part of a word): spelled out my name.

[Middle English spellen, to read letter by letter, from Old French espeller, of Germanic origin.]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 
spell 2 (spĕl)
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n.
1.
a. A word or formula believed to have magic power.
b. A bewitched state or trance: The sorcerer put the prince under a spell.
2. A compelling attraction; charm or fascination: the spell of the theater.
tr.v. spelled, spell·ing, spells
To put (someone) under a spell; bewitch.

[Middle English, discourse, from Old English.]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 
spell 3 (spĕl)
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n.
1. A short, indefinite period of time.
2. Informal A period of weather of a particular kind: a dry spell.
3.
a. One's turn at work.
b. A period of work; a shift.
4. Australian A period of rest.
5. Informal A period of physical or mental disorder or distress: a dizzy spell.
6. Informal A short distance.
v. spelled, spell·ing, spells
v.tr.
1. To relieve (someone) from work temporarily by taking a turn.
2. To allow (someone) to rest a while.
v.intr.
1. To take turns working.
2. Australian To rest for a time from an activity.

[From Middle English spelen, to spare, from Old English spelian, to represent, substitute for.]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices

    Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

    Indo-European Roots

    Semitic Roots

    The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.

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