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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

In cases of poisoning or drug overdoses, doctors might have a patient ingest activated charcoal to draw the offending substance out of their body, SELF explained previously. Sarah Jacoby, SELF, "Can Any Skin-Care Products Actually 'Detox' Your Face?," 3 May 2019 Sure, being a country star and Game of Thrones super fan probably helped seal the deal, but Chris explained to Rolling Stone that his management reached out to the show's production team in hopes of participating in the series. Blair Donovan, Country Living, "Wait, Chris Stapleton Was on 'Game of Thrones' This Week?!," 30 Apr. 2019 That might also explain why the whale was so friendly and got so close to the Norwegian fishing boat. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "The Russian Navy Might Be Recruiting Whales as Spies," 29 Apr. 2019 And this theory would actually explain something that's been bothering me about season 8's trailer. Katherine J. Igoe, Marie Claire, "Is Arya's Reanimated Family What She's Running From In 'Game of Thrones'?," 19 Apr. 2019 That might explain why the sneaker market continues to grow. Emily Farra, Vogue, "How Two Major Sustainability Developments Could Disrupt the Sneaker Market Forever," 18 Apr. 2019 That might also explain why Jane knows how to connect with ~wild~ guys. Stacey Grant, Seventeen, "20 Insane Disney Movie Fan Theories That Will Blow. Your. Mind.," 16 Apr. 2019 But nobody could explain where the Garfield gadgets kept coming from. Andrew Moseman, Popular Mechanics, "A 35-Year-Old Garfield Novelty Telephone Mystery Has Been Solved," 29 Mar. 2019 Perhaps in a follow-up letter Mr. Zuckerman can explain how for-profit colleges differ from private and public colleges in these respects. ... WSJ, "Maybe Nonprofit Colleges Should Guarantee Results," 22 Mar. 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about explain

Statistics for explain

Last Updated

9 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for explain

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Keep scrolling for more

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

Comments on explain

What made you want to look up explain? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

using a distributed computer network

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Time Traveler Quiz: Which Word Came First?

  • time traveler quiz which word came first
  • Which came first?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!