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

Experts aren’t totally sure what causes moles to form, but sun exposure is thought to increase the number of moles on your skin, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) explains. Jenn Sinrich, SELF, "12 Common Face 'Bumps' and How to Deal With Them," 31 May 2019 Rosalía explained the importance of the new single with a personal message on Instagram last night. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Rosalía Is a Total Boss in Her "Aute Cuture" Video and We Can't Stop Watching," 30 May 2019 Intel executive explained how the Performance Maximizer will work. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Intel teases 'Performance Maximizer' one-click overclocking tool, with insurance to back it up," 29 May 2019 Among Einstein's most famous discoveries from that year, known as his Annus Mirabilis, was his equation E = mc2, which explains this equivalence. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Why the World's Measuring Systems Just Changed—and What It Means," 20 May 2019 In honor of its debut, Kensington Palace posted a new, lengthy Instagram post explaining what the garden means to Kate and what some of its key features are. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Kate Middleton Shares an Adorable Picture of Herself on a Swing in Honor of Her New Garden," 19 May 2019 Recode and Vox have joined forces to uncover and explain how our digital world is changing — and changing us. Emily Stewart, Vox, "The US government’s ongoing battle with Chinese telecom giant Huawei, explained," 17 May 2019 In cases of poisoning or drug overdoses, doctors might have a patient ingest activated charcoal to draw the offending substance out of their body, SELF explained previously. Sarah Jacoby, SELF, "Can Any Skin-Care Products Actually 'Detox' Your Face?," 3 May 2019 Sure, being a country star and Game of Thrones super fan probably helped seal the deal, but Chris explained to Rolling Stone that his management reached out to the show's production team in hopes of participating in the series. Blair Donovan, Country Living, "Wait, Chris Stapleton Was on 'Game of Thrones' This Week?!," 30 Apr. 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

6 Jun 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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