fore·​tell | \ fȯr-ˈtel How to pronounce foretell (audio) \
foretold\ fȯr-​ˈtōld How to pronounce foretold (audio) \; foretelling

Definition of foretell

transitive verb

: to tell beforehand : predict

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Other Words from foretell

foreteller noun

Choose the Right Synonym for foretell

foretell, predict, forecast, prophesy, prognosticate mean to tell beforehand. foretell applies to the telling of the coming of a future event by any procedure or any source of information. seers foretold the calamity predict commonly implies inference from facts or accepted laws of nature. astronomers predicted an eclipse forecast adds the implication of anticipating eventualities and differs from predict in being usually concerned with probabilities rather than certainties. forecast snow prophesy connotes inspired or mystic knowledge of the future especially as the fulfilling of divine threats or promises. prophesying a new messiah prognosticate is used less often than the other words; it may suggest learned or skilled interpretation, but more often it is simply a colorful substitute for predict or prophesy. prognosticating the future

foretell, predict, and forecast mean to tell about or announce something before it happens. foretell is used when the future is revealed especially by extraordinary powers. The wizards foretold a great war. predict is used for a fairly exact statement that is the result of the gathering of information and the use of scientific methods. Scientists can sometimes predict earthquakes. forecast is often used when a person has weighed evidence and is telling what is most likely to happen. Experts are forecasting snow.

Examples of foretell in a Sentence

We cannot foretell the future. a 16th-century astrologer who, some claim, accurately foretold 20th-century events
Recent Examples on the Web This trend could foretell a wider dispersion of the virus during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday, when an estimated 400 million Chinese are expected to travel by bus, rail, and air to their hometowns. Dennis Normile, Science | AAAS, "Arrival of SARS-like new virus in United States heightens concerns about global spread," 21 Jan. 2020 Still, there’s no denying the Wii Fit foretold a future where game-like elements would creep into all aspects of our life. Los Angeles Times, "Review: ‘Ring Fit Adventure’ is Nintendo’s bid to slay the fitness dragon," 21 Oct. 2019 Current images taken from orbit around the equator catch just the edges of these unseen realms, which some scientists suspect may foretell the intensity of solar activity years down the line. Charlie Wood, Popular Science, "This new solar orbiter will peek at some of the sun’s most secretive spots," 28 Jan. 2020 In that way, Thursday’s encouraging report was somewhat foretold by their ninth-grade successes. oregonlive, "Oregon graduation rate hits 80% as all student groups show gains," 23 Jan. 2020 There were signs, at first, that Clinton’s sanguine stance had been foretelling. Siva Vaidhyanathan, Wired, "The Two Myths of the Internet," 27 Dec. 2019 Mendeleev accurately predicted the existence of then-undiscovered elements, such as gallium and germanium, and foretold their interactions with other elements. Neima Jahromi, The New Yorker, "The Histories Hidden in the Periodic Table," 27 Dec. 2019 Two recent developments in New York City’s public schools highlight the perils of current progressive education theory and foretell a radical transformation. Rafi Eis, National Review, "The Progressive Transformation of New York City Schools," 7 Nov. 2019 Brexit means foretelling the path of U.K. interest rates is even more difficult than usual. Washington Post, "Boris Johnson is Messing With My Mortgage," 23 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'foretell.' 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 foretell

14th century, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for foretell

Time Traveler

The first known use of foretell was in the 14th century

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Statistics for foretell

Last Updated

24 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Foretell.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for foretell


How to pronounce foretell (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of foretell

formal + literary : to describe (something) before it happens


fore·​tell | \ fōr-ˈtel How to pronounce foretell (audio) \
foretold\ -​ˈtōld \; foretelling

Kids Definition of foretell

: to tell of a thing before it happens

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