verb fore·tell \ fȯr-ˈtel \
|Updated on: 11 Aug 2018

Definition of foretell

foretold play \fȯr-ˈtōld\; foretelling
: to tell beforehand : predict



Examples of foretell in a Sentence

  1. We cannot foretell the future.

  2. a 16th-century astrologer who, some claim, accurately foretold 20th-century events

Recent Examples of foretell from the Web

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.

First Known Use of foretell

14th century

in the meaning defined above

See Words from the same year
NEW! Time Traveler

Synonym Discussion of 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 Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of foretell for English Language Learners

  • : to describe (something) before it happens

FORETELL Defined for Kids


verb fore·tell \ fōr-ˈtel \

Definition of foretell for Students

foretold \-ˈtōld\; foretelling
: to tell of a thing before it happens

Synonym Discussion of foretell

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.

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up foretell? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!


a lighting electrician on a movie set

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Eponym Quiz

  • rubens-painting
  • Which is the best synonym of bowdlerize?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!