I was talking to Jane on my mobile phone. When she was going to tell me something important, our conversation suddenly cut off.
My mobile phone was reaching the critical level. It was around 10% full.
Some time later I phoned to Jane. I told her, "My battery was dead."
She was laughing with "What!What! What... Your battery's dead..."
Her reaction made me think if I should have told her, "my battery ran out."
I am not sure whether there are any differences between my battery is dead and my battery runs out.

  • 3
    Your conversation with Jane reminds me of a famous prank phone conversation: "Is your refrigerator running?" "Yes." "Well, you better go catch it!". She might have just been making a playful pun – not hinting that you used the wrong word.
    – J.R.
    Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 20:56

4 Answers 4


As I've mentioned in other comments, this is partly contextual.

Batteries that have run out of energy are called dead batteries, at least informally, even when those batteries can be recharged.

For example, in a column about "dead" car batteries, a mechanic answers the question:

Can a dead car battery be completely recharged by just jump starting the car and driving around?

However, it's interesting the way the mechanic's language shifts further into the column: He doesn't refer to a "dead" car battery, but he talks about a "discharged" battery:

Consider the scenario where the battery is completely discharged from leaving the headlights on.

And later, he uses scare quotes to show that dead might not be quite the technically correct term:

Also, it is not likely that your battery is ever "completely dead". Even when the battery is discharged it can still have upwards of 9 volts. The fact is though that 95% of batteries are never fully discharged when they need a jump start.

So, back you your conversation with Jane: I suppose you could have said, "I'm sorry we got cut off, my battery was completely discharged," or, "my battery ran out of energy," but in my experience, most people don't say it that way. Instead, they say it the way you did:

My battery went dead.

They might even say, "My cell phone died," even though the phone isn't really "dead" – it only needs to be recharged to become "resurrected."

A good dictionary will confirm that your usage of dead is recognized and acceptable; NOAD says:

dead (adj.)
• (of a piece of equipment) no longer functioning, esp. because of a fault : the phone had gone dead.
• (of an electric circuit or conductor) carrying or transmitting no current : the batteries are dead.

So, when a news article reports:

Gray reportedly claimed that he overslept after his cell phone died and the alarm didn't go off.

That could mean two things: The cell phone malfunctioned and needed to be repaired or replaced, or the cell phone's battery went dead. Although either interpretation is valid, I'd bet on the latter scenario; it's the far more common occurrence.


Yes, there is a difference between them.

My battery is dead = The battery functions no more; that is, it worn out.(It becomes worthless to recharge). My battery has run out /run down = The battery's charge is down (It can be used after charged).

  • 4
    This answer seems a bit too pedantic for my tastes. If my wife or daughter told me, "Sorry we got cut off, my cell phone battery went dead," I'd know exactly what they meant. I think these two terms can be used more interchangeably than you've indicated here. (If I was a blogger with a column about mobile devices, I might be inclined to follow your convention, but in day-to-day conversation, I think we make allowances based on the context.)
    – J.R.
    Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 20:41
  • 2
    For a battery, dead means having no life (charge) left in it. The waters can be muddied, though, when it's a rechargeable battery. Note how the word "dead" gets used in this article, for example.
    – J.R.
    Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 20:56
  • 1
    This question is tagged meaning in context. There are many contexts where the word "dead" is applied to a cell phone battery, and the phone only needs to be plugged in for an hour before both battery and phone are working just fine, like this news story, this battery test, and this product review.
    – J.R.
    Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 21:14
  • 1
    So let me copy those examples: A climber who was hit in the head by a falling rock managed to call 911 right before her cell phone battery died, helping lead to her rescue .. the iPhone 6 lasted for 5 hours and 22 minutes in the same test, while the iPhone 6 Plus’s battery died after 6 hours and 32 minutes .. few things are more aggravating than rolling video on the wave of your life only to find out the battery died on you mid takeoff.
    – J.R.
    Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 21:18
  • 2
    Do you really think, in those news articles I've linked to in my previous comments, that Jonas Gray and the endangered climber had to throw away their cell phone batteries? That the battery that "died after 6 hours and 32 minutes" of testing could not be recharged? Luckily, the English language is not so inflexible.
    – J.R.
    Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 21:36

You changed the words from the title to the actual question.

"My battery runs out" means it is getting close to going dead, but not quite there yet. At that point I might cancel an unimportant phone call to have some power left in case I need it for something more important. I'd tell you on the phone "Sorry, must hang up, battery is running out".

"My battery ran out" is the point in time when the phone stopped working. "My battery is dead" often means the same, but it also means "my battery doesn't have enough charge, and charging it doesn't work anymore; I need a new battery". At that point, I wouldn't be able to tell you on the phone anymore.


"My phone is dead." or "My battery died." are conversational statements which leave a lot of unanswered questions especially to other people using different languages (such as Siswati) other than English because people tend to interpret it in their own language. I can say my battery died.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .