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Telegram vs. Cablegram: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on December 27, 2023
A telegram is a message sent via telegraph, while a cablegram is a telegram transmitted through underwater cables, often international.

Key Differences

A telegram is transmitted via telegraph lines, often over land. Cablegrams, however, are specifically sent through underwater cables, typically for international communication.
Telegrams were a primary form of long-distance communication before the advent of telephones and the internet. Cablegrams gained prominence for overseas communication, particularly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Telegrams were used for various purposes, both personal and business, within a country or across borders. Cablegrams were particularly significant for international communication, especially when transoceanic cables were the only means of quick overseas messaging.
Telegrams were generally more accessible and affordable for the general public. Cablegrams, due to the cost of laying and maintaining underwater cables, were often more expensive.
Both telegram and cablegram technologies have largely been replaced by modern digital communication, but they were crucial in the development of global communication networks.

Comparison Chart

Transmission Medium

Telegraph lines, often over land
Underwater cables, typically for international routes

Historical Usage

Widespread for various communications
Primarily for international messages


Generally more affordable
More expensive due to underwater cable infrastructure

Technological Significance

Pioneered electronic communication
Key in connecting continents for communication

Modern Relevance

Largely obsolete but foundational
Also largely obsolete but vital in history of global connectivity

Telegram and Cablegram Definitions


A message sent by telegraph and then delivered in written or printed form.
He received a telegram announcing the birth of his niece.


A telegram sent by a submarine telegraph cable.
The ambassador received a cablegram with instructions from the foreign ministry.


A short, concise message.
The CEO issued a telegram to all employees about the meeting.


A historical method of long-distance communication.
Transatlantic news in the 1900s often arrived by cablegram.


To send a message by telegraph.
I'll telegram the details to you by noon.


A secure way of sending confidential information overseas.
Military commands were often sent via cablegram during wartime.


A message transmitted by telegraph.


A message transmitted through undersea cables, often internationally.
A cablegram was the fastest way to send news across the ocean.


To telegraph (something) or be telegraphed.


An early form of global electronic communication.
The company’s overseas offices communicated via cablegram.


A message transmitted by telegraph.


A telegram sent by submarine cable.


(intransitive) To send a telegram.


A telegram transmitted via a submarine cable.


(transitive) To send a telegram to (a person).


(rare) To communicate by cablegram.


(transitive) To send (a message) in a telegram.


A message sent by a submarine telegraphic cable.


A message sent by telegraph; a telegraphic dispatch.


A telegram sent abroad


A message transmitted by telegraph


A system of sending messages by telegraph.
They communicated important news via telegram during the war.


A dated form of communication using Morse code.
The old telegram used Morse code for its message.


Were cablegrams used for domestic messaging?

Rarely, they were mainly for international communication.

What was the primary use of a telegram?

For quick communication over long distances before phones.

How fast were telegrams delivered?

Quite fast for the era, often within the same day.

Why were cablegrams significant?

They connected continents for fast communication.

Did telegrams have a word limit?

Yes, messages were concise due to cost per word.

Can telegrams still be sent today?

They're largely obsolete, replaced by modern digital communication.

Why were cablegrams expensive?

Due to the cost of laying and maintaining underwater cables.

Did cablegrams help in wars?

Yes, for secure, long-distance military communication.

Could individuals send telegrams?

Yes, it was common for personal and business use.

What replaced telegrams and cablegrams?

Digital communication like email and instant messaging.

Were cablegrams secure?

Relatively, but they could be intercepted.

How did cablegrams affect global news?

They significantly sped up international news delivery.

What made cablegrams unique in communication?

Their ability to connect distant continents quickly.

How were telegrams delivered to recipients?

Usually hand-delivered in written or printed form.

Did cablegrams contribute to globalization?

Yes, they were pivotal in early global connectivity.

Did the public widely use telegrams?

Yes, they were a popular form of communication.

Could cablegrams be sent between any two countries?

Only if connected by submarine cables.

Were telegrams common in business?

Yes, for quick and efficient business communication.

Were cablegrams affected by natural disasters?

Yes, undersea cables could be damaged by earthquakes or similar events.

Were telegrams used in emergencies?

Yes, often for urgent or important news.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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