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

transitive verb

: to tell beforehand : predict
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

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 Many of us understood the importance of dedicating hours to engaging with the campers, understanding their stories and embracing their rhythms of life—the usual meal times, music breaks, and downtime routines—and discerning the subtle cues that would foretell impending trouble. Hoda Sherif, TIME, 10 May 2024 That leads to a 10-minute sequence that foretells each character’s fate for the rest of the movie. Brian Davids, The Hollywood Reporter, 6 May 2024 And in a year of key elections in both Europe and the United States, the farmer uprising may foretell a sharp right shift. Emily Rauhala, Washington Post, 11 Apr. 2024 For the first time live, fans can witness Tia Pepa, who can control the weather with her emotions; her husband Felix; their daughter Dolores, with her gift to hear; and Bruno, the mysterious and misunderstood Madrigal family member whose visions foretold the future. Esther Piccolino, Miami Herald, 1 Apr. 2024 Advertisement Nor could O’Connell, fresh off a Super Bowl victory as the Los Angeles Rams’ offensive coordinator, have foretold the slick turnaround authored by Minnesota’s foremost rival, the Green Bay Packers. Tom Krasovic, San Diego Union-Tribune, 2 Feb. 2024 In all of these traditions, the appearance of the doppelgänger acted as an omen, foretelling future tragedies or performing a person’s actions in advance. Sam Walters, Discover Magazine, 19 Mar. 2024 This weekend’s weather is perhaps a sign of things to come as Punxsutawney Phil woke up on Friday and did not see his shadow, foretelling according to legend that we are destined for an early spring. Tony Roberts, Baltimore Sun, 1 Feb. 2024 The rare find provides new context about life in Roman Britain. — A dead star that feasted on a planet once in its orbit could foretell the eventual fate of our own solar system. — Scientists have identified one reason why invasive Jorō spiders are spreading throughout United States. Katie Hunt, CNN, 2 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'foretell.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near foretell

Cite this Entry

“Foretell.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


fore·​tell fōr-ˈtel How to pronounce foretell (audio)
foretold -ˈtōld How to pronounce foretell (audio) ; foretelling
: to tell of or describe beforehand
foreteller noun

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