General English

General Science

  • noun a short period when the weather does not change


  • noun a period of bowling by a particular bowler, consisting of a number of overs bowled consecutively from one end of the pitch, allowing of course for another bowler operating from the other end in alternate overs
    Citation ‘A makeshift notice, Rest in Pieces, had been pinned to the bowling crease from where Curtly Ambrose had propelled one of the greatest and most destructive spells of fast bowling to reduce England to 40 for eight overnight’ (Mike Selvey, Guardian 31 March 1994)
    Citation ‘Towards the end of a 31-over spell that was almost a sentence, Warne began to tire’ (Haigh 2005)
  • verb to take a bowler off, especially in order to prevent him from becoming over-tired
    Citation ‘Had a Gilchrist been there as well as Hall, Worrell would have had two options: a pair of fast bowlers could have been “spelled” assuring the shock attack was fresh at all times’ (Manley 1988)
    Citation ‘Vaughan’s own acclimatisation was aided by Ponting’s bowling choices: Australia’s captain unaccountably spelled Lee after 5–2–6–1 in favour of Gillespie’ (Haigh 2005)


  • verb to indicate the letters which make up a word

Origin & History of “spell”

English has three distinct words spell, although two of them come from the same ultimate source. Spell ‘name the letters of a word’ (13th c.) was adapted from Old French espeler ‘read out’. This was descended from an earlier *espeldre, which was borrowed from prehistoric Germanic *spellōn. And it was a noun relative of this, *spellam, which gave English spell ‘magic formula’ (OE). Spell ‘period of time’ (16th c.) may go back ultimately to Old English spelian ‘substitute’; its original meaning was ‘replace someone else at a job’, and the main modern sense ‘period of time’ did not emerge, via ‘period of work’, until the 18th century.