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

Debra Meyer With one or more of the male ancestors in my maternal lineage being Khoi-San, the cross-over sharing of chromosomal DNA between parents explains the Khoi-San phenotype—that is, observable, physical characteristics – in my family. Debra Meyer, Quartz Africa, "How an African scientist used mitochondrial DNA to discover she had ancestral South Asian roots," 6 Sep. 2019 Here, in her own words, Hong explains her choice to say goodbye to the restaurant industry...for now. Katianna Hong, Bon Appétit, "I Used to Love the Fine-Dining Grind. Then I Wanted to Start a Family.," 3 Sep. 2019 Consider a scenario in which an organization develops a diversity initiative that raises the representation of black employees from single digits to around 25%, explain the authors. Evelyn Iritani, Quartz at Work, "White men and minority groups have different definitions of “sufficient” diversity," 5 Sep. 2019 Fire officials said the men specifically targeted the homeless encampment, but did not offer a motive for the attack or explain how the fire was set. James Queally, Glendale News-Press, "Two men accused of setting blaze at Eagle Rock homeless encampment that grew into brush fire," 4 Sep. 2019 Burt said Wednesday, explaining the homeowner’s use of force escalated the residential burglary to a strong-arm robbery. Sara Cardine, La Cañada Valley Sun, "Homeowner surprises Labor Day burglars, engages them in fist fight," 4 Sep. 2019 Osaka, who’s only 21, comforted her opponent and — as Gauff explained in her post-match interview — asked Gauff to do the on-court interview with her. Michelle R. Martinelli, For The Win, "Naomi Osaka comforted Coco Gauff after match in beautiful U.S. Open moment," 31 Aug. 2019 The kind man went on to explain that his lucky shipment would last only a few hours, judging by past weeks’ sales. Josie Sexton, The Know, "Popeyes’ viral chicken sandwich is gone (for now), but some Colorado locations still have a few," 27 Aug. 2019 A few horses grazed near a big, fenced-in rectangle of grass—in the summer, Celmins explained, this is a polo field. Calvin Tomkins, The New Yorker, "Vija Celmins’s Surface Matters," 26 Aug. 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

12 Sep 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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