An instrument that converts voice and other sound signals into a form that can be transmitted to remote locations and that receives and reconverts waves into sound signals. verb tel·e·phoned
, tel·e·phones verb, transitive
- To speak with (a person) by telephone.
- To initiate or make a telephone connection with; place a call to.
- To transmit (a message, for example) by telephone.
To engage in communication by telephone.
Related Forms:Word History:
The everyday word telephone
illustrates some important linguistic and etymological processes. First, the noun telephone
is one of a class of technological and scientific words made up of combining forms derived from classical languages, in this case tele-
and -phone. Tele-
is from the Greek combining form tēle-
a form of tēle,
meaning “afar, far off,” while -phone
is from Greek phōnē,
“sound, voice.” Such words derived from classical languages can be put together in French or German, for example, as well as in English. Which language actually gave birth to them cannot always be determined. In this case French téléphone
(about 1830) seems to have priority. The word was used for an acoustic apparatus, as it originally was in English (1844). Alexander Graham Bell appropriated the word for his invention in 1876, and in 1877 we have the first instance of the verb telephone
meaning “to speak to by telephone.” The verb is an example of a linguistic process called functional shift. This occurs when a word develops a new part of speech: a noun is used as a verb (to date
), a verb as a noun (a break
), an adjective as a noun (the rich
), a noun as an adjective (a stone wall
), or even an adjective as a verb (to round
). When we telephone
a friend, we are changing the syntactic function of telephone
, making it a verb rather than a noun.