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

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Other Words from explain

explainable \ ik-​ˈsplā-​nə-​bəl How to pronounce explainable (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.
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Recent Examples on the Web The enthusiasm, fueled partly by borrowed money, helps explain why Chinese stocks have weathered the global turmoil better... Chong Koh Ping, WSJ, "‘It Is All About Faith’: Eager Small Investors Buoy China Stocks in Market Maelstrom," 23 Mar. 2020 Such practices reflect how the Supreme Court's view of technology remains rooted in the 1970s—if not the 1870s—and helps explain why the Supreme Court has shunned live-streaming or even releasing same-day audio of its hearings. Jeff John Roberts, Fortune, "The Supreme Court has shunned technology: Could coronavirus change that?," 22 Mar. 2020 Each day, our reporters and photojournalists are out in the city and region, in the neighborhoods, searching for the stories that can help explain how this pandemic is changing our lives, our businesses, our way of life. Steve Riley, Houston Chronicle, "From the editor: During coronavirus crisis, we’re working for you," 20 Mar. 2020 That trend helps explain, in part, the growing popularity of big-spending left wing politics in recent years, whether that’s Bernie Sanders in the US, Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, Podemos in Spain, and Syriza in Greece. Adam Rasmi, Quartz, "History shows that big social programs only emerge after global disasters," 20 Mar. 2020 Her department relies on local health officers to help explain and enforce those orders. Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "State of emergency turns Milwaukee health commissioner into coronavirus top cop," 20 Mar. 2020 Nvidia’s Tony Tamasi explained during a press briefing. Brad Chacos, PCWorld, "DirectX 12 Ultimate unifies ray tracing, speed-boosting graphics tricks across PCs and Xbox," 20 Mar. 2020 That, too, helps explain how the NBA players exposed to Gobert were able to get tests. Eric Levenson, CNN, "Why NBA players can get coronavirus tests but regular Americans are struggling to," 18 Mar. 2020 That approach helps explain why Book arrived at Rosenfels’ doorstep last Wednesday in the first place. Carter Karels, Indianapolis Star, "Notre Dame football: What Ian Book's response to coronavirus threat reveals," 18 Mar. 2020

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for explain

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for explain

Last Updated

27 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Explain.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/explain. Accessed 1 Apr. 2020.

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More Definitions for explain


How to pronounce explain (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of explain

: to make (something) clear or easy to understand
: to tell, show, or be the reason for or cause of something


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.

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More from Merriam-Webster on explain

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for explain

Spanish Central: Translation of explain

Nglish: Translation of explain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of explain for Arabic Speakers

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