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 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

In addition, a second set of ears can be helpful when your doctor explains potential causes of and solutions to your symptoms. Detroit Free Press, "How to talk to your doctor about awkward men’s health issues," 17 June 2019 Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment and Musk hadn’t explained his earlier tweets on Twitter as of Monday afternoon. Washington Post, "Is Elon Musk closing troublesome Twitter account or teasing?," 17 June 2019 Before 2017, Cooper University Hospital in Camden, New Jersey, had seen only one case of severe Vibrio infection in eight years, explained Doktor, also an assistant professor at Cooper Medical School at Rowan University. Susan Scutti, CNN, "Flesh-eating bacteria in New Jersey reveal one possible effect of climate change, study says," 17 June 2019 In a nine-page ruling, the attorney general's office stated the Finance Cabinet failed to give Southworth a timely response or explain the delay. Phillip M. Bailey, The Courier-Journal, "The firing of Lt. Gov. Hampton's aide has sparked a GOP civil war in Kentucky. Here's how," 17 June 2019 But demography does not fully explain the precarious state of Niger. Robert Draper, National Geographic, "Surrounded by chaos, Niger is a nation on the edge," 17 June 2019 The phenomenon could be explained only by adding fluid dynamics to Vicsek’s model, which had been done earlier by Sriram Ramaswamy, a theoretical physicist at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. Quanta Magazine, "Swirling Bacteria Linked to the Physics of Phase Transitions," 16 June 2019 Voters have some different reasons explaining their candidate picks. CBS News, "CBS News Battleground Tracker poll: The "Beat Trump" factor shapes Democratic field," 16 June 2019 Colorful bracelets and earrings were also on display, and workers explained the artwork to curious onlookers. Serena O'sullivan, azcentral, "Phoenix community comes together to celebrate Juneteenth and build friendships," 16 June 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.

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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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Statistics for explain

Last Updated

20 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for explain

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

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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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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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