spell 1 (spĕl)
v. spelled or spelt (spĕlt), spell·ing, spells
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.
To name or write in order the letters of a word or words: I've never been able to spell very well.
To defeat in a spelling bee.
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 ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. 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:
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.