The word "telegraph" (from Ancient Greek: τῆλε, têle, "at a distance" and γράφειν, gráphein, "to write") was first coined by the French inventor of the Semaphore telegraph, Claude Chappe, who also coined the word "semaphore".
A "telegraph" is a device for transmitting and receiving messages over long distances, i.e., for telegraphy. The word "telegraph" alone now generally refers to an electrical telegraph. Wireless telegraphy is transmission of messages over radio with telegraphic codes.
Contrary to the extensive definition used by Chappe, Morse argued that the term telegraph can strictly be applied only to systems that transmit and record messages at a distance. This is to be distinguished from semaphore, which merely transmits messages. Smoke signals, for instance, are to be considered semaphore, not telegraph. According to Morse, telegraph dates only from 1832 when Pavel Schilling invented one of the earliest electrical telegraphs.
A telegraph message sent by an electrical telegraph operator or telegrapher using Morse code (or a printing telegraph operator using plain text) was known as a telegram. A cablegram was a message sent by a submarine telegraph cable, often shortened to a cable or a wire. Later, a Telex was a message sent by a Telex network, a switched network of teleprinters similar to a telephone network.
A wire picture or wire photo was a newspaper picture that was sent from a remote location by a facsimile telegraph. A diplomatic telegram, also known as a diplomatic cable, is the term given to a confidential communication between a diplomatic mission and the foreign ministry of its parent country. These continue to be called telegrams or cables regardless of the method used for transmission.