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
explainer noun

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

But those fights sort of morph into hearings—grievances aired, context disclosed, perspectives explained and vetted—all that. Marie Claire, "A New Couple, A Newer Home, and 2 Paychecks," 7 Feb. 2019 Jeff Stein and Libby Nelson explained the emoluments issue in much more detail for Vox. Dylan Scott, Vox, "Why the government shutdown is good legal news for Trump," 27 Dec. 2018 This explained why the driver who was in the car that killed Herzberg was alone. Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge, "Uber’s self-driving cars return to public roads for the first time since fatal crash," 20 Dec. 2018 Galloway explained that part of Nadella’s success is diversifying Microsoft’s business into enough verticals that the company hasn’t been as impacted by tech stocks’ recent decline. Eric Johnson, Recode, "Microsoft is more valuable than Apple again. Why?," 30 Nov. 2018 As Chattuporn explained various customs to us, young monks in training, no more than 10 years old, strolled past silently in orange robes. David Amsden, Condé Nast Traveler, "A Bespoke River Cruise Through the Golden Triangle," 19 Nov. 2018 The Salem witch trials, explained by politics What exactly caused the mass hysteria in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692 and 1693 is still a subject that divides historians and others who study the witch trials. Dylan Scott, Vox, "Trump’s favorite slander against Robert Mueller’s investigation has a very long history.," 26 Jan. 2019 Apparently, Jen was also an avid video gamer, playing for hours on end while Sarah was at work (which would explain why Devonte told Dana DeKalb that his moms weren’t really paying attention to what was going on at home). Glamour, "Broken Harts, Episode 7: 'Stone-Cold Narcissist'," 22 Jan. 2019 Our guide leads us around the terraces, explaining that the intricate carvings on the walls basically serve as a huge open-air encyclopedia depicting the teachings of Buddha and offering a glimpse into Indonesia’s past. Jennifer Goldstein, Marie Claire, "How To Spice Up Your Skincare Routine," 18 Jan. 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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Learn More about explain

Statistics for explain

Last Updated

14 Feb 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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