1. the act of a person or thing that calls.
  2. vocation, profession, or trade: What is your calling?
  3. a call or summons: He had a calling to join the church.
  4. a strong impulse or inclination: She did it in response to an inner calling.
  5. a convocation: the calling of Congress.

verb (used with object)

  1. to cry out in a loud voice; shout: He called her name to see if she was home.
  2. to command or request to come; summon: to call a dog; to call a cab; to call a witness.
  3. to ask or invite to come: Will you call the family to dinner?
  4. to communicate or try to communicate with by telephone: Call me when you arrive.
  5. to rouse from sleep, as by a call; waken: Call me at eight o’clock.
  6. to read over (a roll or a list) in a loud voice.
  7. to convoke or convene: to call Congress into session.
  8. to announce authoritatively; proclaim: to call a halt.
  9. to order into effect; establish: to call a strike.
  10. to schedule: to call a rehearsal.
  11. to summon by or as if by divine command: He felt called to the ministry.
  12. to summon to an office, duty, etc.: His country called him to the colors.
  13. to cause to come; bring: to call to mind; to call into existence.
  14. to bring under consideration or discussion: The judge called the case to court.
  15. to attract or lure (birds or animals) by imitating characteristic sounds.
  16. to direct or attract (attention): He called his roommate’s attention to the mess.
  17. to name or address (someone) as: His parents named him James, but the boys call him Jim.
  18. to designate as something specified: He called me a liar.
  19. to think of as something specified; consider; estimate: I call that a mean remark.
  20. to demand of (someone) that he or she fulfill a promise, furnish evidence for a statement, etc.: They called him on his story.
  21. to criticize adversely; express disapproval of; censure (often followed by out): She called him on his vulgar language.
  22. to demand payment or fulfillment of (a loan).
  23. to demand presentation of (bonds) for redemption.
  24. to forecast correctly: He has called the outcome of the last three elections.
  25. Sports. (of an official)
    1. to pronounce a judgment on (a shot, pitch, batter, etc.): The umpire called the pitch a strike.
    2. to put an end to (a contest) because of inclement weather, poor field conditions, etc.: A sudden downpour forced the umpire to call the game.
  26. Pool. to name (the ball) one intends to drive into a particular pocket.
  27. (in a computer program) to transfer control of to a procedure or subroutine.
  28. Cards.
    1. to demand (a card).
    2. to demand the display of a hand by (a player).
    3. equal (a bet) or equal the bet made by (the preceding bettor) in a round.
    4. signal one’s partner for a lead of (a certain card or suit).

verb (used without object)

  1. to speak loudly, as to attract attention; shout; cry: She called to the children.
  2. to make a short visit; stop at a place on some errand or business: She called at the store for the package.
  3. to telephone or try to telephone a person: He promised to call at noon.
  4. Cards.
    1. to demand a card.
    2. to demand a showing of hands.
    3. equal a bet.
    4. bid or pass.
  5. (of a bird or animal) to utter its characteristic cry.


  1. a cry or shout.
  2. the cry or vocal sound of a bird or other animal.
  3. an instrument for imitating this cry and attracting or luring an animal: He bought a duck call.
  4. an act or instance of telephoning: She went into the next room to place her call.
  5. a short visit: to make a call on someone.
  6. a summons or signal sounded by a bugle, bell, etc.: We live so close to the fort that we can hear the bugle calls.
  7. a summons, invitation, or bidding: The students gathered at the call of the dean.
  8. a calling of a roll; roll call.
  9. the fascination or appeal of a given place, vocation, etc.: the call of the sea.
  10. a mystic experience of divine appointment to a vocation or service: He had a call to become a minister.
  11. a request or invitation to become pastor of a church, a professor in a university, etc.
  12. a need or occasion: He had no call to say such outrageous things.
  13. a demand or claim: to make a call on a person’s time.
  14. a demand for payment of an obligation, especially where payment is at the option of the creditor.
  15. Cards.
    1. a demand for a card or a showing of hands.
    2. equaling of the preceding bet.
    3. Bridge.a bid or pass.
  16. Sports. a judgment or decision by an umpire, a referee, or other official of a contest, as on a shot, pitch, or batter: The referees were making one bad call after another.
  17. Theater.
    1. a notice of rehearsal posted by the stage manager.
    2. act call.
    3. curtain call.
  18. Dance. a figure or direction in square dancing, announced to the dancers by the caller.
  19. Also called call option. Finance. an option that gives the right to buy a fixed amount of a particular stock at a predetermined price within a given period of time, purchased by a person who believes the price will rise.Compare put(def 24).
  20. Fox Hunting. any of several cries, or sounds made on a horn by the hunter to encourage the hounds.

Verb Phrases

  1. call away, to cause to leave or go; summon: A death in the family called him away.
  2. call back,
    1. to summon or bring back; recall: He called back the messenger. The actor was called back for a second audition.
    2. to revoke; retract: to call back an accusation.
  3. call down,
    1. to request or pray for; invoke: to call down the wrath of God.
    2. to reprimand; scold: The boss called us down for lateness.
  4. call for,
    1. to go or come to get; pick up; fetch.
    2. to request; summon.
    3. to require; demand; need: The occasion calls for a cool head.
  5. call forth, to summon into action; bring into existence: to call forth her courage and resolve.
  6. call in,
    1. to call for payment; collect.
    2. to withdraw from circulation: to call in gold certificates.
    3. to call upon for consultation; ask for help: Two specialists were called in to assist in the operation.
    4. to inform or report by telephone: Did he call in his decision this morning?
    5. to participate in a radio or television program by telephone.
  7. call in/into question. question(def 17).
  8. call off,
    1. to distract; take away: Please call off your dog.
    2. to cancel (something) that had been planned for a certain date: The performance was called off because of rain.
  9. call on/upon,
    1. to ask; appeal to: They called on him to represent them.
    2. to visit for a short time: to call on friends.
  10. call out,
    1. to speak in a loud voice; shout.
    2. to summon into service or action: Call out the militia!
    3. to bring out; elicit: The emergency called out her hidden abilities.
    4. to direct attention to with a callout: to call out each detail in an illustration.
    5. challenge to a fight.
  11. call up,
    1. to bring forward for consideration or discussion.
    2. to cause to remember; evoke.
    3. to communicate or try to communicate with by telephone.
    4. to summon for action or service: A large number of Army reservists were called up.
    5. summon (information) from a computer system for display on a video screen: She called up the full text.

  1. call in sick. sick1(def 15).
  2. call to order. order(def 48).
  3. on call,
    1. payable or subject to return without advance notice.
    2. readily available for summoning upon short notice.
  4. take a call, to acknowledge the applause of the audience after a performance by appearing for a bow or a curtain call.
  5. within call, within distance or range of being spoken to or summoned: Please stay within call.


  1. a strong inner urge to follow an occupation, etc; vocation
  2. an occupation, profession, or trade


  1. (often foll by out) to speak or utter (words, sounds, etc) loudly so as to attract attentionhe called out her name
  2. (tr) to ask or order to cometo call a policeman
  3. (intr sometimes foll by on) to make a visit (to)she called on him
  4. (often foll by up) to telephone (a person)he called back at nine
  5. (tr) to summon to a specific office, profession, etche was called to the ministry
  6. (of animals or birds) to utter (a characteristic sound or cry)
  7. (tr) to summon (a bird or animal) by imitating its cry
  8. (tr) to name or stylethey called the dog Rover
  9. (tr) to designatethey called him a coward
  10. (tr) British dialect to speak ill of or scold
  11. (tr) to regard in a specific wayI call it a foolish waste of time
  12. (tr) to attract (attention)
  13. (tr) to read (a list, register, etc) aloud to check for omissions or absentees
  14. (when tr, usually foll by for) to give an order (for)to call a strike
  15. (intr) to try to predict the result of tossing a coin
  16. (tr) to awakenI was called early this morning
  17. (tr) to cause to assembleto call a meeting
  18. (tr) sport (of an umpire, referee, etc) to pass judgment upon (a shot, player, etc) with a call
  19. (tr) Australian and NZ to broadcast a commentary on (a horse race or other sporting event)
  20. (tr) to demand repayment of (a loan, redeemable bond, security, etc)
  21. (tr often foll by up) accounting to demand payment of (a portion of a share issue not yet paid by subscribers)
  22. (tr) British to award (a student at an Inn of Court) the degree of barrister (esp in the phrase call to the bar)
  23. (tr) computing to transfer control to (a named subprogram)
  24. (tr) poker to demand that (a player) expose his hand, after equalling his bet
  25. (intr) bridge to make a bid
  26. (in square-dancing) to call out (instructions) to the dancers
  27. billiards to ask (a player) to say what kind of shot he will play or (of a player) to name his shot
  28. (intr foll by for)
    1. to requirethis problem calls for study
    2. to come or go (for) in order to fetchI will call for my book later
  29. (intr; foll by on or upon) to make an appeal or request (to)they called upon him to reply
  30. (tr) to predict the outcome of an eventwe don’t know yet if the plan has succeeded because it’s too soon to call
  31. call into being to create
  32. call into play to begin to operate
  33. call in question or call into question See question (def. 12)
  34. call it a day to stop work or other activity
  35. too close to call (of the outcome of a competition, election, match, etc) unable to be predicted
  36. call to mind to remember or cause to be remembered


  1. a cry or shout
  2. the characteristic cry of a bird or animal
  3. a device, such as a whistle, intended to imitate the cry of a bird or animal
  4. a summons or invitation
  5. a summons or signal sounded on a horn, bugle, etc
  6. hunting any of several notes or patterns of notes, blown on a hunting horn as a signal
  7. hunting
    1. an imitation of the characteristic cry of a wild animal or bird to lure it to the hunter
    2. an instrument for producing such an imitation
  8. a short visitthe doctor made six calls this morning
  9. an inner urge to some task or profession; vocation
  10. allure or fascination, esp of a placethe call of the forest
  11. British the summons to the bar of a student member of an Inn of Court
  12. need, demand, or occasionthere is no call to shout; we don’t get much call for stockings these days
  13. demand or claim (esp in the phrase the call of duty)
  14. theatre a notice to actors informing them of times of rehearsals
  15. (in square dancing) an instruction to execute new figures
  16. a conversation or a request for a connection by telephone
  17. commerce
    1. a demand for repayment of a loan
    2. (as modifier)call money
  18. finance
    1. a demand for redeemable bonds or shares to be presented for repayment
    2. a demand for an instalment payment on the issue price of bonds or shares
  19. billiards a demand to an opponent to say what kind of shot he will play
  20. poker a demand for a hand or hands to be exposed
  21. bridge a bid, or a player’s turn to bid
  22. a decision or judgmentit’s your call
  23. sport a decision of an umpire or referee regarding a shot, pitch, etc
  24. Australian a broadcast commentary on a horse race or other sporting event
  25. Also called: call option stock exchange an option to buy a stated amount of securities at a specified price during a specified periodCompare put (def. 20)
  26. See roll call
  27. call for margin stock exchange a demand made by a stockbroker for partial payment of a client’s debt due to decreasing value of the collateral
  28. call of nature See nature (def. 16)
  29. on call
    1. (of a loan, etc) repayable on demand
    2. available to be called for work outside normal working hours
  30. within call within range; accessible

“vocation,” mid-13c., verbal noun from call (v.). The sense traces to I Cor. vii:20.


early 14c., from call (v.). Sense of “a short formal visit” is from 1862.


Old English ceallian “to call, shout,” less common than clipian; replaced by related Old Norse kalla “to cry loudly,” from Proto-Germanic *kallojanan (cf. Dutch kallen “to talk,” Old High German kallon “to call”), from PIE root *gal- “to call, scream, shriek, shout” (cf. Sanskrit garhati “bewail, criticize;” Latin gallus “cock;” Old High German klaga, German Klage “complaint, grievance, lament, accusation;” Old English clacu “affront;” Old Church Slavonic glasu “voice,” glagolu “word;” Welsh galw “call”). Related: Called; calling.

Meaning “to give a name to” is mid-13c. Coin-toss sense is from 1801. Meaning “to visit” (Middle English) was literally “to stand at the door and call.” Telephone/telegraph sense is from 1889. To call out someone to fight (1823) corresponds to French provoqueur. To call it a day is from 1834.

In addition to the idioms beginning with call

  • call a halt
  • call a spade a spade
  • call back
  • call down
  • call for
  • call in
  • call in question
  • call in sick
  • call it a day
  • call it quits
  • call names
  • call of duty
  • call off
  • call of nature
  • call on
  • call one’s own
  • call on the carpet
  • call out
  • call someone’s bluff
  • call the shots
  • call the tune
  • call to account
  • call to mind
  • call to order
  • call up
  • call upon

also see:

  • above and beyond (the call of duty)
  • at someone’s beck and call
  • close call
  • dressing (calling) down
  • no call for
  • on call
  • pay a call
  • pot calling the kettle black
  • too close to call
  • uncalled for
  • wake-up call
  • within call
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