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From Middle English dwellen (delay, hinder, detain; linger, remain), from Old English dwellan (to mislead, deceive; be led into error, stray), from Proto-Germanic *dwaljaną (to hold up, delay; hesitate), from Proto-Indo-European *dʰwelH- (to whirl, swirl, blur, obfuscate), which is cognate with Old Norse dvelja and related to Proto-Germanic *dwelaną (to go astray), which underwent semantic change in its descendants.[1] Cognates include Danish dvæle (to linger, dwell) and Swedish dväljas (to dwell, reside).


  • enPR: dwĕl, IPA(key): /dwɛl/
  • (file)


dwell (plural dwells)

  1. (engineering) A period of time in which a system or component remains in a given state.
  2. (engineering) A brief pause in the motion of part of a mechanism to allow an operation to be completed.
  3. (electrical engineering) A planned delay in a timed control program.
  4. (automotive) In a petrol engine, the period of time the ignition points are closed to let current flow through the ignition coil in between each spark. This is measured as an angle in degrees around the camshaft in the distributor which controls the points, for example in a 4-cylinder engine it might be 55° (spark at 90° intervals, points closed for 55° between each).


dwell (third-person singular simple present dwells, present participle dwelling, simple past and past participle dwelt or (mostly US) dwelled)

  1. (intransitive, now literary) To live; to reside.
    • Peacham
      the parish in which I was born, dwell, and have possessions
    • C. J. Smith
      The poor man dwells in a humble cottage near the hall where the lord of the domain resides.
  2. (intransitive) To linger (on) a particular thought, idea etc.; to remain fixated (on).
  3. (intransitive, engineering) To be in a given state.
  4. (intransitive) To abide; to remain; to continue.
    • 1596, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Qveene. [], part II (books IV–VI), London: Printed [by Richard Field] for VVilliam Ponsonbie, OCLC 932900760, book VI, canto XII, stanza 17, page 512:
      My liefe (ſayd ſhe) ye know, that long ygo, / Whileſt ye in durance dwelt, ye to me gaue / A little mayde, the which ye chylded tho ; / The ſame againe if now ye liſt to haue, / The ſame is yonder Lady, whom high God did ſaue.
    • Shakespeare
      I'll rather dwell in my necessity.
    • Wordsworth
      Thy soul was like a star and dwelt apart.


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  1. ^ According to ODS "(eng. dwell er laan fra nord.)", "English dwell is a loanword from Old Norse"
  2. ^ Oxford-Paravia Concise - Dizionario Inglese-Italiano e Italiano-Inglese (in collaborazione con Oxford University Press). Edited by Maria Cristina Bareggi. Torino: Paravia, 2003. ISBN 8839551107. Online version here