\ˈtāl \

Definition of tale 

1a : a usually imaginative narrative of an event : story

b : an intentionally untrue report : falsehood always preferred the tale to the truth— Sir Winston Churchill

2a : a series of events or facts told or presented : account

b(1) : a report of a private or confidential matter dead men tell no tales

(2) : a libelous report or piece of gossip

3a : count, tally

b : total

4 obsolete : discourse, talk

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Synonyms for tale


canard, story, whisper

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Examples of tale in a Sentence

The movie is a stirring tale of courage. We listened to his familiar tale of woe as he talked again about the failure of his marriage. He told us thrilling tales about his adventures as a pilot in the war. Are you telling tales again? Or is that the truth?
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Recent Examples on the Web

This Pixar animated classic tells the tale of a pair of monster buddies who work in a factory dedicated to scaring children—until their friendship with a human child inspires them to rethink the scaring business. Alexandra Samuel, WSJ, "Nine Movies That Can Teach Your Children About Business," 25 Nov. 2018 The numbers behind Ralph Breaks the Internet tell the tale of just how much work the story department put into the film. Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "Why do so many animated films have great stories? One secret: storyboarding.," 20 Nov. 2018 Sheera Frenkel, Nicholas Confessore, Cecilia Kang, Matthew Rosenberg and Jack Nicas interviewed more than 50 people to tell the tale. Casey Newton, The Verge, "Facebook has a growing morale problem," 15 Nov. 2018 The animated series told the tale of Blue, a puppy who finds clues with her paw prints. Stephanie Nolasco, Fox News, "'Mister Rogers' was 'upset' at the direction children's media was going in his later years, pal claims," 6 Sep. 2018 But William Lytton survived to tell the tale, and shared his shark fighting technique with the Associated Press. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Man Punches Shark (and Lives)," 31 Aug. 2018 Below, check out eight couples who managed to swap rings months after swapping numbers and are still together to tell the tale. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "8 Celebrity Couples Who Got Engaged Super Quickly—and Are Still Together," 3 Aug. 2018 Handmade puppets tell the tale of a young girl and a laundry-stealing squirrel— without words, but with live music. BostonGlobe.com, "Five things to do around Greater Boston, July 16-22," 13 July 2018 The movie, which Woodley also produced, tells a harrowing tale of survival at sea. Rebecca Farley, refinery29.com, "Shailene Woodley's Intense Preparation For Adrift Will Shock You," 29 June 2018

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

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

History and Etymology for tale

Middle English, from Old English talu; akin to Old Norse tala talk

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Statistics for tale

Last Updated

14 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for tale

The first known use of tale was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for tale



English Language Learners Definition of tale

: a story about imaginary events : an exciting or dramatic story

: a story about someone's actual experiences

: an exciting story that may not be completely true


\ˈtāl \

Kids Definition of tale

1 : something told He told a tale of woe.

2 : a story about an imaginary event fairy tales

4 : a piece of harmful gossip

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More from Merriam-Webster on tale

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with tale

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for tale

Spanish Central: Translation of tale

Nglish: Translation of tale for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tale for Arabic Speakers

Comments on tale

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


to make faulty or ineffective

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