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spell something out
1. Lit. to spell something (with letters). I can't understand your name. Can you spell it out? Please spell out all the strange words so I can write them down correctly.
2. Fig. to give all the details of something. I want you to understand this completely, so I'm going to spell it out very carefully. The instruction book for my computer spells out everything very carefully.
spell out somethingalso spell something out
to explain something in detail Students have been given a fact sheet that spells out how AIDS is transferred. The company has a very strict dress code, and they spell it out for you when you start working there.
1. Make plain, clarify, as in We asked her to spell out her objectives. [c. 1940]
2. Read slowly and laboriously, as in He was only six but he managed to spell out the instructions. [Early 1800s]
3. Puzzle out, manage to understand with some effort, as in It took years before anyone could spell out the inscriptions on the Rosetta Stone. [Late 1600s] All three usages transfer spell in the sense of "proceed letter by letter."
1. To name or write in order the letters constituting some word or part of a word: I spelled out my name for the telephone operator. The student spelled each out each word on the spelling test.
2. To give a detailed and literal statement of something in order to make it perfectly clear and understandable: The committee demanded that he spell out his objectives. She didn't understand the penalties at first, but we spelled them out for her.