Etymology: Middle English, to mean, signify, read by spelling out letters, from Anglo-French espeleir, of Germanic origin; akin to Old English spellian to relate, spell talk
Date: 14th century
1. to read slowly and with difficulty — often used with out
2. to find out by study ; come to understand — often used with out <it requires some pains to spell out those decorations — F. J. Mather> 3. a. (1) to name the letters of in order; also to write or print the letters of in order (2) to write or print the letters of in a particular way <you can spell it either way> <I spelled it wrong> b. to make up (a word) <what word do these letters spell> c. write 1b <catnip is spelled as one word> 4. to add up to ; mean <crop failure was likely to spell stark famine — Stringfellow Barr> intransitive verb to form words with letters <teach children to spell>; also to spell words in a certain way <spells the way he speaks> II. noun Etymology: Middle English, talk, tale, from Old English; akin to Old High German spel talk, tale Date: 1579 1. a. a spoken word or form of words held to have magic power b. a state of enchantment 2. a strong compelling influence or attraction III. transitive verb (spelled; spelling) Date: circa 1623 to put under a spell IV. noun Etymology: probably alteration of Middle English spale substitute, from Old English spala Date: 1593 1. a. archaic a shift of workers b. one's turn at work 2. a. a period spent in a job or occupation b. chiefly Australian a period of rest from work, activity, or use 3. a. an indeterminate period of time <waited a spell before advancing>; also a continuous period of time <did a spell in prison> b. a stretch of a specified type of weather 4. a period of bodily or mental distress or disorder <a spell of coughing> <fainting spells> V. verb (spelled; spelling) Etymology: Middle English spelen, from Old English spelian; akin to Old English spala substitute Date: 1595 transitive verb 1. to take the place of for a time ; relieve <he and the other assistant…spelled each other — Mary McCarthy> 2. rest intransitive verb 1. to work in turns 2. chiefly Australian to rest from work or activity for a time
New Collegiate Dictionary. 2001.