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 The truth, as both Fox News and Harris officials would explain, was that technical difficulties in the Iowa bar’s sound system had oddly modulated her voice. Washington Post, "Doctored images have become a fact of life for political campaigns. When they’re disproved, believers ‘just don’t care.’," 14 Jan. 2020 Tensing explained how, for the last 35 years, Venice on Vine has helped adults overcome barriers to gaining employment. Cincinnati.com, "At Work On Purpose launches institute to equip leaders around the world," 14 Jan. 2020 Police notified the child’s parents of the incident and explained that the two teenagers would face charges for endangering the welfare of a child. Madison Dibble, Washington Examiner, "Teenagers charged after posting video of 2-year-old vaping on social media," 13 Jan. 2020 This meant that demand for Shingrix rose quickly, explained Roth. Julie Washington, cleveland, "Shingles shot shortage, other related questions answered: Health Matters," 12 Jan. 2020 Brown, a scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey Wetland and Aquatic Research Center, explained in a statement. Fox News, "Invasive chanchita fish mistaken for black acara in Florida for two decades," 9 Jan. 2020 My research looks at how Indian business elites use their money and explains both how their life is structured around luxury and privilege and marred by anxieties of class, money and race. Parul Bhandari, Quartz India, "How Delhi’s super-rich housewives strive to be part of a global elite," 9 Jan. 2020 If these cases apply to you, ask a doctor to write a note to the housing authority explaining how new housing will help your condition. Maya Miller, ProPublica, "What You Need to Know About How Section 8 Really Works," 9 Jan. 2020 Kemp ordered Creuzot to appear in court after the trial ended in October and explain why he shouldn’t be held in contempt for his remarks. Lavendrick Smith, Dallas News, "Dallas County DA John Creuzot says his office will challenge gag orders after his contempt charge is dropped," 9 Jan. 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

17 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Explain.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/explains. Accessed 24 January 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

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).


a feeling of well-being or elation

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