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Telegram vs. Telegraph: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on October 6, 2023
A telegram is a message sent via a telegraph system, while a telegraph is a device or system for transmitting messages over long distances.

Key Differences

Telegram and Telegraph, both crucial inventions of their time, are connected yet distinctly different. A telegram refers to the actual message transmitted using electrical signals over long distances. In the era before phones and the internet, sending a telegram was a swift way to communicate crucial news.
Conversely, the telegraph is the apparatus or the system used to send these telegrams. This system made use of wires, electrical signals, and Morse code to convey messages. The word "telegram" encapsulates the content, the message itself, while "telegraph" denotes the medium, the machine, or the overall method used.
Over time, both terms have evolved. Telegram now also refers to a popular messaging application. Meanwhile, telegraph has taken on metaphorical meanings, such as to unintentionally reveal or indicate an upcoming action.

Comparison Chart


A message sent via a telegraph system
A device or system for transmitting messages


Refers to content
Refers to the medium or apparatus

Modern Context

Also a popular messaging application
Often used metaphorically


Intangible (the message itself)
Tangible (the machinery or system)

Time Relevance

Historically, a speedy mode of communication
An old system for long-distance communication

Telegram and Telegraph Definitions


A message sent over long distances using electrical signals.
She received a telegram announcing the birth of her niece.


An apparatus for transmitting messages over long distances.
The invention of the telegraph revolutionized long-distance communication.


A printed or written message delivered by telegraphic means.
He handed her a telegram with the news of their son's safe arrival.


To unintentionally indicate an intention or future action.
He tried to keep a poker face, but his eyes telegraphed his bluff.


An urgent or fast communication method.
Send a telegram to inform them of the changes.


To send a message by telegraph.
He decided to telegraph his family about his safe arrival.


A modern messaging application.
I'll send you the details on Telegram later.


A means of communicating over distances using wires and signals.
The telegraph was a groundbreaking invention of the 19th century.


A message transmitted by telegraph.


A system of sending messages via electrical signals.
Morse code was commonly used with the telegraph system.


To telegraph (something) or be telegraphed.


A communications system that transmits and receives simple unmodulated electric impulses, especially one in which the transmission and reception stations are directly connected by wires.


A message transmitted by telegraph.


A message transmitted by telegraph; a telegram.


(intransitive) To send a telegram.


To transmit (a message) by telegraph.


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


To send or convey a message to (a recipient) by telegraph.


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


To make known (a feeling or an attitude, for example) by nonverbal means
Telegraphed her derision with a smirk.


A message sent by telegraph; a telegraphic dispatch.


To make known (an intended action, for example) in advance or unintentionally
By massing troops on the border, the enemy telegraphed its intended invasion to the target country.


A message transmitted by telegraph


To send or transmit a telegram.


A communication sent by telegraph.
The telegram bore the sad news of her grandfather's passing.


(uncommon) telegraphy, any process for transmitting arbitrarily long messages over a long distance using a symbolic code.


The electrical device gradually developed in the early 19th century to transmit messages using Morse code; the entire system used to transmit its messages including overhead lines and transoceanic cables.
The first message transmitted by telegraph in the WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT.


(video games) A visible or audible cue that indicates to an opponent the action that a character is about to take.


To use a telegraph.


(figurative) To clearly communicate to another nonverbally, whether by gesture, a change in attitude, or any other sign, especially unintentionally.
Her frown telegraphed her displeasure.


An apparatus, or a process, for communicating intelligence rapidly between distant points, especially by means of preconcerted visible or audible signals representing words or ideas, or by means of words and signs, transmitted by electrical action.


To convey or announce by telegraph.


Apparatus used to communicate at a distance over a wire (usually in Morse code)


Send cables, wires, or telegrams


Can "telegraph" mean giving away intentions?

Yes, it can mean unintentionally revealing or indicating an upcoming action.

Can "telegram" refer to any quick message?

Historically, it specifically referred to messages sent via telegraph, but it can be used more broadly today.

How were telegrams transmitted?

They were transmitted using electrical signals over wires.

Is a telegram the same as a telegraph?

No, a telegram is the message, while a telegraph is the system or device.

Is telegraphy still in use today?

While largely obsolete, some forms of telegraphy, like maritime Morse code, are still in use.

Could anyone send a telegram?

Yes, for a fee, public telegram services were available.

Why is the app named Telegram?

It's likely a nod to swift and efficient communication, reminiscent of the original telegrams.

Can "telegraph" be used as a verb?

Yes, it can mean to send a message by telegraph or to unintentionally indicate an intention.

Is Telegram also an app?

Yes, Telegram is a modern messaging application.

Was Morse code used with telegrams?

Yes, Morse code was a common language for telegrams sent via telegraph.

Which came first, the telegram or the telegraph?

The telegraph system came first, and then messages sent via this system were called telegrams.

Are telegrams still sent today?

Traditional telegrams are rare, but some companies offer "telegram" services for nostalgic or ceremonial purposes.

Were telegrams short or long?

Typically short, due to cost and the manual effort of sending Morse code.

What was the main purpose of a telegraph?

It was used for transmitting messages over long distances quickly.

Did telegraphs require manual operation?

Yes, operators manually sent and translated the Morse code messages.

How has the telegraph impacted modern communication?

It laid the groundwork for subsequent advances, from telephones to the internet.

What replaced telegraphs primarily?

The telephone was the primary replacement for the telegraph.

Were telegrams used for international communication?

Yes, they were crucial for international news and personal communication before phones.

Do telegrams and telegraphs have a connection to Morse code?

Yes, Morse code was the language used to send telegrams via the telegraph system.

How did one pay for sending a telegram?

By the word or message length, leading to concise telegrams.
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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