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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web How to explain BaaS simply has always been a challenge, so here's a great new nugget that takes us to the food industry. Dov Marmor, Forbes, "The Fintech Cookie Factory: How Banking As A Service Works," 6 Apr. 2021 Serena Oberstein, the Jewish World Watch executive director who is at the nexus of the emerging campaign, identified a number of factors to explain why the rollout has yet to achieve the intensity of the Jewish Darfur activism 15 years ago. Ron Kampeas, sun-sentinel.com, "The next major Jewish action is on behalf of China’s Uighurs," 6 Apr. 2021 Next method is to refrain from arguing, and instead to encourage your friend to elaborate on her statements and explain her feelings. Washington Post, "Miss Manners: Time to de-escalate this non-fight," 6 Apr. 2021 However, in researching his book, O'Connor uncovered another possible theory to explain Norman's personality traits. Ben Morse, CNN, "Moe Norman: The 'Rain Man of golf' who amazed even the greats of the sport," 6 Apr. 2021 Teran recommends that workers explain their request for greater mental health support in a letter and ask for a response within a specific time frame. Rachel Schnalzer, Los Angeles Times, "Newsletter: How to boost mental health at your workplace," 6 Apr. 2021 Most of the officials don’t engage Pawlowski, but an unidentified woman seems to try and explain their presence. Fox News, "Calgary church pastor’s video confronting police goes viral," 5 Apr. 2021 Social-distancing is hard if not impossible on an airplane, even with middle seats empty — a point that United CEO Scott Kirby made many times to explain his airline's resistance to seat-blocking. Tom Krisher, Detroit Free Press, "Staff shortages force Delta to cancel about 100 flights, open some middle seats early," 5 Apr. 2021 Social-distancing is hard if not impossible on an airplane, even with middle seats empty — a point that United CEO Scott Kirby made many times to explain his airline’s resistance to seat-blocking. Tom Krisher, ajc, "Delta cancels over 100 flights, opens some middle seats," 4 Apr. 2021

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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Learn More about explain

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

9 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Explain.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/explain. Accessed 12 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for explain

explain

verb

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

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.

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Comments on explain

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