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What is a proper word for a person who you have telephone talk with? I found the words interlocutor, interviewer, addressee and hearer. What is the best to choose, especially for using in a formal way?

  • What do you mean by formal? Do you mean technical? – Lambie Sep 7 '18 at 13:10
  • The word that fits for documentation usage, technical context usage etc. – Gamilato Sep 7 '18 at 13:14
  • You really need to express more clearly what you mean by "formal" and "technical context". The choice of the proper word is very context-dependent. Technical telecommunications contexts in my experience do not refer to persons but to numbers and nodes. Do you want a name for a person who is engaged in a phone conversation in which they are the called party? – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 7 '18 at 13:52
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    The (fictional!) telephone-company operator Ernestine played by Lily Tomlin on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In ca. 1970 often asked (with deliberate redundancy) "Is this the party to whom I am speaking?" – dave_thompson_085 Sep 8 '18 at 0:43
  • Tᴚoɯɐuo, the context that I need to use a requested word in is an official instruction. It is about using office phone features so I need to point on a random person or a group who is receiving a call and what is needed to be done in order them to hear you well. So that is the context. However, the topic was revealed so widely that my specific case is not so curious now. – Gamilato Sep 10 '18 at 9:49
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"Interlocutor" is a great word! But it is rarely used and will have most people reaching for a dictionary. The others are not telephone-specific and also carry other inferences, especially interviewer which suggests that the telephone conversation itself is a formal interview and perhaps rather one-sided.

The two parties on a telephone call are officially called the calling party and the called party, although I have not personally heard this used and may be considered old-fashioned.

If the other person initiated the call, you could refer to them simply as "the caller", which is more common. Alternatively, you could just refer to them as "the other party".

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  • Thank you so much! "The other party" sounds like a perfect variant for that context. – Gamilato Sep 7 '18 at 13:42
  • The other words are not typical usage for telephone calls.calling party and called party sound like legal language, which is OK but not technically telecomms usage. Interlocutor is for any conversation. And correspondent is never used in this context. – Lambie Sep 7 '18 at 13:49
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    @Lambie: not necessarily legalistic but a term of art at the phone company: youtube.com/watch?v=RFz2iFMygSg – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 7 '18 at 13:58
  • @Lambie Okay, I have removed "correspondent" from my answer, although it is used for people on the other end of the phone in broadcast media. Yes, "calling/called party" does sound very legal, but the OP asked for a formal word; also I did note that I have not heard it used. But I think you'll find that my final suggestion was "caller", which is a more common and slightly less formal variation of that, and which you yourself have suggested in your own answer 25 minutes after I did. Hmmm. – Astralbee Sep 7 '18 at 13:58
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People often say "the person on the other end".

We speak of a party on a call or of the parties on a call. In legalistic contexts, party is the word used for either person (or any person) on a phone call.

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  • Right. The person I was talking to. – Lambie Sep 7 '18 at 13:08
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    I like Lily Tomlin's "Is this the party to whom I am speaking?" – Roobie Nuby Sep 8 '18 at 16:48
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The formal term used in telecommunications is caller and call recipient.

This text on caller ID shows this usage: caller and [call] recipient

In everyday language, as has been suggested, the person I was talking to, the person called, etc., the call taker, for example. There is no single term that is commonly used.

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    Thank you! The word "call recipient" is really from the telecommunication discourse, and I, for one, feel like it denotes not a person who have a phone conversation, but just a person who literally pick up a phone for call to be launched. – Gamilato Sep 7 '18 at 13:37
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    @Gamilato Yes, well, I appreciate your feeling but it is a fact. It is not just someone who happens to answer a call. It's the technical term. In the US, they also say receiver, the caller and the receiver. – Lambie Sep 7 '18 at 13:48
  • So I am wrong with my understanding this word? Is it okay for defining a person you have a conversation with if this is required to be mentioned in a document? – Gamilato Sep 7 '18 at 14:11
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None of these are good words for this idea.

"Interlocutor" means someone involved in a conversation of any kind, not necessarily on a telephone. If you're not worried about that distinction, then it's a valid word. But it's a very rarely used word. I haven't taken a survey but I suspect most English speakers are not familiar with the word and would have to guess its meaning or look it up.

"Interviewer" implies that this conversation is an interview, that is, that someone is being questioned by a reporter for a news story, by a company that is considering hiring him for a job, or something of that sort. We don't use this word for an ordinary conversation.

"Addressee" is normally used for someone to whom you have sent a letter, not a participant in a verbal conversation. It can be used in cases where a speaker calls someone out in some way, for example, a teacher picks a student to answer a question. But this is rather rare and use for a phone conversation would be unusual and possibly confusing.

"Hearer" implies that the person is listening only and not speaking. The word might be used for someone in a crowd listening to a speech, or someone who overhears a conversation between others. It is not used for someone who participates in a two-way conversation.

All that said, there is no one word in English to refer to someone participating in a telephone conversation. We normally use a short phrase, like, "the person I called" or "the person who called me". Other words to refer to a person may be used, like "the man who called", "that jerk who called", etc. You can call the person who called, "the caller". You might think that by analogy to other words you could refer to the person receiving the call as "the callee", but no fluent speaker says that. If you weren't trying to reach a specific person, like if you called a company, you can say "there person who answered" (or "the woman who answered", etc) Once the context of a phone call is clear, we usually simply call the person by the same sort of shorthand we use for people in general: "him", "that lady", etc.

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  • Thank you for clarifying the meanings of all the words! However I need the word or word collocation that has a meaning of neutral indefinite party which receives a call. So I think now that "the other party" sounds very well. – Gamilato Sep 7 '18 at 13:40
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    I was actually going to chime in with "callee" if nobody mentioned it. In general, in English, if A does "foo" to B, then A is a "foo-er", and B is a "foo-ee". But I think in this specific case I'm being influenced by Computer Science jargon -- when a function calls another function, we speak of them as the "caller" and "callee". But "callee" is much less common in general use. – Glenn Willen Sep 7 '18 at 23:24
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If we know who which side made the call, then "answerer" or "caller" can be applicable.

Otherwise, there are some other answers here. I will go ahead and submit another one for consideration:

The "phone".

In some cases, this won't work well. However, in some situations, referring to the phone is a way that people may describe the conversation.

  • "What I learned from the phone is..."
  • "He got mad and was screaming at the phone."
  • The phone told him...
  • The phone is making her angry

In these cases, people will know that you're actually referring to the person on the other side of the phone. Actually, a more clear term is something like "the person she is talking to", like noted in Lambie's comment to Tᴚoɯɐuo's answer.

There is one common advantage to trying to use "caller", "answerer", or referring to the "phone" like as if the phone itself is what is listening or speaking. That advantage is simply shortness. You can say any of those faster than "the person on the other side of the phone call". If you are looking for a shorter phrase, these terms will sometimes accomplish that goal.

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