Not sure how 'common' this is, but during phone calls I will often agree to call somebody with the sole intention of letting the phone ring so that the other party knows that whatever event we agreed on has occurred. The most common example would be to let them know I have arrived at their place and am expecting them to come out whilst I wait in the car for example.

In Slovak and other Slavic languages there is a specific verb for this ("prezvonit", prefix 'pre'+to ring), yet in English I always end up with awkward constructions explaining explicitly that they shouldn't pick up.

Is there any informal way of communicating this easily in English or am I the only one cheap enough to try and save myself a couple of cents and has no such word developed in the English language?

  • 1
    With text messaging, this scheme is hardly ever needed anymore, but if I were going to tell someone that I was going to do this I'd say, "I'll call your phone and let it ring once and hang up. That'll mean <whatever>." Note that by saying "call your phone" and not "call you" it helps reinforce the idea that they should not answer it. I suppose you call call this a Single Bit Message (SBM). ;-)
    – Jim
    Sep 26, 2014 at 21:49
  • There's one ring, as in "to one ring someone," but it's meant more to razz someone than to signal them.
    – Gnawme
    Sep 26, 2014 at 23:49
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    I exactly know what you mean. I am from Egypt and we do the same thing. We usually say: "hey, I will give you a missed" or "I will give you a missed call"....but now that I am living in the US, they dont do that here because calling is free anyways. I think the culture affects the vocabulary :)
    – Keeto
    Sep 27, 2014 at 0:16
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    Hey David, it's a great example of something that "should have a word"! The phenomenon and practice you describe is completely understood by everyone.
    – Fattie
    Sep 27, 2014 at 8:46
  • "one-ring" is excellent. that's probably the closest!
    – Fattie
    Sep 27, 2014 at 8:47

3 Answers 3


It is called a missed call and the action is giving a missed call.

Miss call is used as a verb also (as to miss call).

A missed call is a telephone call that is deliberately terminated by the caller before being answered by its intended recipient, appearing as a "missed call" on the receiver's cellphone. It is commonly used in South Asia, the Philippines and Africa as a way of communicating pre-agreed messages for free. For example, a group of friends may agree that two missed calls in succession means "I am running late".

Equivalents in other places are to drop call in the US, to beep in Africa, and to prank in England and Australia.


Wikipedia even lists meanings of various missed calls in different cultures:

  • In Syria, five missed calls in rapid succession means "I am online, let's chat".
  • In Bhutan, farmers know how much milk their customers want by the number of missed calls they get.
  • In India, a missed call from a shop or business means "Your order is ready".
  • In the United Kingdom, taxi drivers may use missed calls to let customers know that their taxi has arrived.

Speaking as a Canadian, I can say that I've never heard of such a word and suspect that no matter what word you use

  • call
  • ring
  • buzz

there is still a strong expectation that whoever receives a call is meant to answer it. That's because here (and in the US) for most people, local calls are free. So nobody needs to use phone-ringing signalling as a way to save money because it doesn't save money.

For long-distance calls, which are paid by the minute (commonly — although there are flat-rate plans), as well as some mobile phone plans where people pay airtime by the minute, people sometimes do set up such schemes as dialing someone with the expectation that they won't answer. For exmaple, my parents and brother do this, because he pays long-distance but they do not, so he calls, they don't answer, then they call him back. However such schemes are, in my experience, always coordinated ahead of time with explicit instructions about not answering the phone, etc.

So in short, I don't know of any widely-used word that could suit your purposes. Maybe the British have one.


My Australian friends would say "prank me". I'm not sure how widespread it is, but it's mentioned as definition 4 in Wiktionary, and mentioned as UK slang by Kaplan.

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