fore·​tell | \fȯr-ˈtel \
foretold\fȯr-​ˈtōld \; 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

Inevitably, the balance sheet foretold the coming storm. Steve H. Hanke And John Greenwood, WSJ, "The Dollar, Not the IMF, Can Save Argentina," 26 Sep. 2018 His rock-star reception at a September Democratic fundraiser in Iowa that year foretold the head-to-head clash of the two stars. Thomas Beaumont, The Seattle Times, "Top 2020 Democrats missing in Iowa but working backchannel," 5 Aug. 2018 The campaigns offered no details on the extent of their advertising, but the early ads foretell an expensive and contentious contest between two of the wealthiest men ever to seek the Illinois governor’s office. Rick Pearson,, "Rauner hits Pritzker over Blagojevich, Pritzker hits Rauner over 'failed leadership' in early TV ads," 5 June 2018 For Krasner, who spent his own life among those accused of crime, this was a reckoning foretold. Christine M. Flowers,, "Krasner's push to purify the Philly DA's office harms victims, past and potential | Christine Flowers," 8 Jan. 2018 Can the decision to wolf down two doughnuts — and then shake out the decorative curls of chocolate that collect in the bottom of the bag and eat those, too — really be foretold by something deep in my family’s DNA? Nestor Ramos,, "Will my genes doom my young daughter to a weight problem?," 31 Jan. 2018 As automation grinds through jobs, wages and up the social ladder, a landscape with some disturbing resemblances to that foretold by Marx is coming inexorably into view. Andrew Stuttaford, WSJ, "‘Marx and Marxism’ and ‘A World to Win’ Review: Better Dead Than Read," 5 July 2018 Courtney has a cute girlfriend! Olivia is going to New York to live out Hannah's dream!), the final episode of the sophomore season also foretold a lot of dark, disturbing drama to come, should the series be renewed for a third season. Kaitlin Reilly,, "13 Reasons Why," 30 May 2018 The union has done an extremely poor job of reading the tea leaves foretelling what was going to take place, and understanding what the unintended consequences might be. Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY, "Why a baseball agent is leaving the industry over $33,000: 'Tired of swimming in a sewer'," 3 June 2018

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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Statistics for foretell

Last Updated

1 Dec 2018

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

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More Definitions for foretell



English Language Learners Definition of foretell

: to describe (something) before it happens


fore·​tell | \fōr-ˈtel \
foretold\-​ˈtōld \; foretelling

Kids Definition of foretell

: to tell of a thing before it happens

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More from Merriam-Webster on foretell

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with foretell

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for foretell

Spanish Central: Translation of foretell

Nglish: Translation of foretell for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of foretell for Arabic Speakers

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to enclose within walls

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