When you use a phone, you "dial" the number. This word comes from the dial (the round thing that spins around) that we all used to use on old phones–before there were phones with buttons that needed to be pushed.

dialing a phone

The dial has holes in it. For each number, you put your finger in the dial and move it around until it stops on that metal thing you see in the picture. (above)

Even though most phones today have buttons or a keypad, we still use the word "dial" when making phone calls. It’s usually a verb:

  • What number did you dial?
  • Did you dial the right number?
  • I thought I had dialed the right number, but I think I made a mistake.
  • I’m sorry. I dialed the wrong number.
  • She must have dialed a five instead of a six.
  • Can you dial a number for me, please?
  • You can get some assistance if you dial the operator.

Note: This is one of those words that could go away with the passage of time and with changes in technology. For now, however, it’s good to know because many people still use it.

Click here to go to the Word of the Day page.

This page was first published on January 3, 2012.