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 Nguyen explains, Adelaide is still a bit too young to understand the risks associated with her form of cancer. Fox News, "Texas restaurant opens early for 3-year-old cancer patient: 'It's just really amazing what they did'," 11 Feb. 2020 As Zak explained to Komsomolskaya Pravda, the numbers were telling him that Calment couldn’t have lived that long. Lauren Collins, The New Yorker, "Was Jeanne Calment the Oldest Person Who Ever Lived—or a Fraud?," 10 Feb. 2020 Take the time early on to define the standard of care for each of your possible stakeholders and then quantitatively explain how your product improves upon it. Paul Grand, STAT, "10 reasons why health care startups fail," 10 Feb. 2020 But as with all the insane and borderline-totalitarian things Trump does, it can be partially explained by the man himself. Kate Wagner, The New Republic, "Duncing About Architecture," 8 Feb. 2020 The surrogate therapist, as Kardashian West explained it, acted as a mediator between herself and the surrogate who carried her daughter, Chicago. Halie Lesavage, Glamour, "Kim Kardashian Says She Leaned on a ‘Surrogate Therapist’ Ahead of Chicago's Arrival," 8 Feb. 2020 As Bickle explains to , the well’s importance fits in nicely with what’s known of the region, which experienced severe droughts and floods during this time period. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian Magazine, "This Czech Well May Be the World’s Oldest Wooden Structure," 7 Feb. 2020 As the Department of Health and Social Services explained last year, its intent was to cut services, find cheaper ways to deliver Medicaid and make the program more efficient. James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News, "Clock is ticking for Alaska legislators to fund Medicaid, state officials say," 6 Feb. 2020 This link to the Nile may explain why Greek and Romans later placed the familiar lion’s head at springs and fountains. Lynn Johnson, National Geographic, "What's the ozone hole got to do with warming?," 5 Feb. 2020

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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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

14 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Explain.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/explain. Accessed 27 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for explain


How to pronounce explain (audio)

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

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