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

Keep scrolling for more

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

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 The snow became an obstacle and not something that foretold the glorious hills or snow angels, or snowball fights, the latter having been banned in many northern cities. Joe Soucheray, Twin Cities, "Soucheray: It begins, our long descent into summer," 21 Dec. 2019 In this district, an election has long foretold a single conclusion. Simon Montlake, The Christian Science Monitor, "As UK sets poll date, a voter’s dilemma: Vote on party, or vote on Brexit?," 30 Oct. 2019 The confrontation at Newark Beth Israel may foretell what’s coming in other cities. Marshall Allen, ProPublica, "A Nurse Bought Protective Supplies for Her Colleagues Using GoFundMe. The Hospital Suspended Her.," 7 Apr. 2020 Somehow these arguments failed to foretell California becoming the fifth largest economy in the world. Kyle Whitmire, al, "Whitmire: Stop with the California comparisons, Kay Ivey," 27 Mar. 2020 YouTube and several amicus curiae, on the other hand, foretell the undoing of the Internet if online speech is regulated. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, "First Amendment doesn’t apply on YouTube; judges reject PragerU lawsuit," 26 Feb. 2020 The buyback rush could foretell tough times for shareholders as well as slowing GDP. Shawn Tully, Fortune, "3 reasons ballooning stock buybacks are worrisome," 12 Feb. 2020 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

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.

See More

First Known Use of foretell

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about foretell

Time Traveler for foretell

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for foretell

Last Updated

18 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Foretell.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 May. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

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

Choose the Right Synonym for 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.

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on foretell

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


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

May 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a blooming wisteria tree
  • Which is a synonym of exiguous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

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!