explain

verb
ex·​plain | \ ik-ˈsplān How to pronounce explain (audio) \
explained; explaining; explains

Definition of explain

transitive verb

1a : to make known explain the secret of your success
b : to make plain or understandable footnotes that explain the terms
2 : to give the reason for or cause of unable to explain his strange conduct
3 : to show the logical development or relationships of explained the new theory

intransitive verb

: to make something plain or understandable a report that suggests rather than explains
explain oneself
: to clarify one's statements or the reasons for one's conduct

Other Words from explain

explainable \ ik-​ˈsplā-​nə-​bəl How to pronounce explain (audio) \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for explain

explain, expound, explicate, elucidate, interpret mean to make something clear or understandable. explain implies a making plain or intelligible what is not immediately obvious or entirely known. explain the rules expound implies a careful often elaborate explanation. expounding a scientific theory explicate adds the idea of a developed or detailed analysis. explicate a poem elucidate stresses the throwing of light upon as by offering details or motives previously unclear or only implicit. elucidate an obscure passage interpret adds to explain the need for imagination or sympathy or special knowledge in dealing with something. interpreting a work of art

Examples of explain in a Sentence

I need a lawyer to explain this contract to me. The professor explained the poem to the class. She explained how the machine worked. I explained to them that I would be available by phone. Scientists could not explain the strange lights in the sky. I don't know how to explain the dog's strange behavior. We asked him to explain his reasons to us. Can you explain why no one was informed earlier? That explains why we were so far behind schedule. Give me a chance to explain. See More
Recent Examples on the Web But the pandemic alone does not explain the recent trend. BostonGlobe.com, 11 May 2022 But Cantrell couldn’t explain why deputies didn’t do an undercover drug buy instead of trying to break down Keeton’s door. Washington Post, 11 May 2022 But the pandemic alone does not explain the recent trend. New York Times, 11 May 2022 The car’s owner couldn’t explain why someone had reported his license plate number in relation to the vehicle chase. Bob Sandrick, cleveland, 5 May 2022 Instead, for reasons the document does not explain, Hudson beat and stabbed Kinkead, then drove her car south and down the Seward Highway, concealing it off the road. Zaz Hollander, Anchorage Daily News, 4 May 2022 Judge Elizabeth Scherer did not publicly explain why the attorneys were absent. Victoria Ballard, Sun Sentinel, 2 May 2022 During an April 6 press conference launching the additional efforts, Abbott did not explain that the busing is voluntary for immigrants. ProPublica, 30 Apr. 2022 The company did not immediately explain the write-down. David Koenig, Chicago Tribune, 27 Apr. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'explain.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of explain

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1b

History and Etymology for explain

Middle English explanen, from Latin explanare, literally, to make level, from ex- + planus level, flat — more at floor

Learn More About explain

Time Traveler for explain

Time Traveler

The first known use of explain was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near explain

expiscatory

explain

explain away

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for explain

Last Updated

15 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Explain.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/explain. Accessed 22 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for explain

explain

verb
ex·​plain | \ ik-ˈsplān How to pronounce explain (audio) \
explained; explaining

Kids Definition of explain

1 : to make clear : clarify Let me explain how it works.
2 : to give the reasons for or cause of Please explain why you're late.

More from Merriam-Webster on explain

Nglish: Translation of explain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of explain for Arabic Speakers

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