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Telegram vs. Cablegram — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on August 19, 2023
A telegram is a message transmitted over a telegraph, while a cablegram is a telegram sent overseas via undersea cable.
Telegram vs. Cablegram — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Telegram and Cablegram


Key Differences

A telegram is a message that is sent electronically over a telegraph system. On the other hand, a cablegram is essentially a telegram that is transmitted via undersea cables.
Both telegram and cablegram were precursors to modern electronic communication. The main difference between them is the medium of transmission. While all cablegrams are telegrams (in the sense that they are messages sent electronically), not all telegrams are cablegrams. The distinguishing factor for cablegrams is their undersea journey.
Telegram and cablegram have since become outdated in many parts of the world, replaced by newer and faster means of communication like email, instant messaging, and social media. Yet, the legacy of these terms persists, evoking an era when long-distance communication was a marvel.

Comparison Chart

Medium of Transmission

Sent over telegraph wires or radio waves.
Sent via undersea cables.

Geographical Scope

Can be local, national, or international.
Primarily international, between continents.

Historical Usage

Used for various kinds of messages.
Specifically for messages across continents.

Associated Technology

Telegraph systems.
Undersea telegraph cables.

Modern Relevance

Largely historical or for stylistic use.
Primarily historical, specific to undersea messages.

Compare with Definitions


A written or printed communication transmitted rapidly over long distances.
The president sent a telegram expressing his condolences.


An electronic message sent between continents using submerged lines.
In the 20th century, a cablegram from Europe to the U.S. was a major way to communicate important news.


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


An international message transmitted faster than sea mail but slower than modern methods.
During his travels, he would send a cablegram to his family to let them know he was safe.


To telegraph (something) or be telegraphed.


A relic of international communication from an era before global internet connectivity.
Historians found a cache of cablegrams shedding light on diplomatic relations of the past.


An electronic message sent over a telegraph system.
She received a telegram from her husband during the war.


A telegram transmitted via an undersea cable.
The ambassador received a cablegram with urgent instructions from headquarters.


An outdated means of communication, predating telephones and the internet.
My grandparents often talk about the days when a telegram was the fastest way to send a message.


A written communication primarily for international exchanges via cables.
The CEO received a cablegram about the overseas merger details.


(intransitive) To send a telegram.


A telegram sent by submarine cable.


A message coded in Morse and sent via wires or radio waves.
The ship's captain sent a distress telegram when they hit an iceberg.


A telegram transmitted via a submarine cable.


A message transmitted by telegraph.


A message sent by a submarine telegraphic cable.


A message transmitted by telegraph.


(rare) To communicate by cablegram.


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


A telegram sent abroad


A message sent by telegraph; a telegraphic dispatch.


A message transmitted by telegraph


A brief communication sent quickly via electronic means.
The news of the victory spread through a flurry of telegrams.

Common Curiosities

What is a cablegram?

A cablegram is a specific type of telegram sent overseas, typically transmitted via undersea cables.

Why were cablegrams significant in the past?

Cablegrams played a crucial role in international communication before the age of the internet, allowing rapid exchange of messages between continents via undersea cables.

Are telegrams and cablegrams still in use today?

While the traditional telegram and cablegram systems are largely outdated, the terms persist and are sometimes used stylistically or to evoke historical contexts.

Why might someone in the past choose to send a cablegram instead of a letter?

A cablegram would be chosen for its speed, as it could deliver a message internationally much faster than sea mail or other traditional methods.

Is every cablegram a telegram?

Yes, every cablegram is a telegram, but not every telegram is a cablegram; the distinction lies in the method and route of transmission.

How did telegrams and cablegrams differ in cost?

Historically, cablegrams were often more expensive than regular telegrams due to the cost of maintaining undersea cables and the significance of international communication.

What is a telegram?

A telegram is a message transmitted electronically over a telegraph system, often coded in Morse and sent via wires or radio waves.

Did both telegrams and cablegrams use Morse code?

Yes, both telegrams and cablegrams commonly utilized Morse code, especially in the early days of telegraphy.

How have modern technologies replaced telegrams and cablegrams?

Modern communication tools like email, instant messaging, and social media have largely replaced the need for telegrams and cablegrams, offering faster and more versatile means of global communication.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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