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

As Allure explains, the makeup will officially ship in September, and consumers will also be able to purchase their fave goodies through the beauty brand's official website. Lauren Rearick, Teen Vogue, "Lady Gaga Launched Her Haus Laboratories Makeup Line on Amazon for Amazon Prime Day 2019," 15 July 2019 Providing a breadth of resources is one of the fair’s most important assets and challenges because, as Thomas explained, getting everyone in the same room every month can be difficult. Talis Shelbourne, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Reentry to the community after incarceration can be hard. Home to Stay fairs can help.," 11 July 2019 As Tristano explained to Eater, because the playgrounds’ target audience is using them less and less, McDonald’s simply made the decision to put its funds elsewhere. Meghan Overdeep, Southern Living, "Where Have the McDonald's PlayPlaces Gone?," 11 July 2019 Birth Control As the Cleveland Clinic explains, women who take birth control are at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure. Colleen Stinchcombe, Woman's Day, "You Can't Rely On Symptoms When It Comes to High Blood Pressure," 11 July 2019 This explains, then, why the singer has remained single for so long, despite the fact that anyone who has ever taken one look at him would die to be the subject of one of his songs. Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello's Birth Charts Reveal If a Shamila Romance is Actually in Our Future," 11 July 2019 As explained below, Harden’s legal team described the lawsuit as built on lies, exaggerations and untenable legal theories. Michael Mccann, SI.com, "Analyzing Why James Harden Won Paparazzi Assault Trial," 10 July 2019 As Dominic Fracassa explained last year, San Francisco periodically moves sand from the north part of the beach to the south — to fight coastal erosion that threatens critical wastewater infrastructure, natural habitats and beach access. Taylor Kate Brown, SFChronicle.com, "Bay Briefing: To get out of a life sentence, location matters," 9 July 2019 As Harold McGee explained in the New York Times some years back, that comparison makes sense given that cilantro’s aroma shares some of its flavor substances with soap. Becky Krystal, Twin Cities, "How to manage — or even conquer — hatred of cilantro," 9 July 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

18 Jul 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



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

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).


to form ideas or theories about something

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