\ ˈtāl How to pronounce tale (audio) \

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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for tale


canard, story, whisper

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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?
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

As for Bieber’s choice? Paired with her classic dress, whale tale has never looked so elevated. Liana Satenstein, Vogue, "Hailey Bieber Transforms the Red Carpet Thong Into a Classic Accessory," 6 May 2019 As Palacios told these tales to his marching soldiers (that would be us), we were interrupted by—what else?—a dragon, played by Antonio Palma, who appeared at the top of a hill clad in a green-screen suit and carrying a large green ball on a stick. Laura Studarus, Marie Claire, "Game of Thrones," 11 Apr. 2019 Tall tale or an excuse to pull off a home invasion to pay back smugglers for sneaking a man over the border into the U.S.? Howard Cohen, miamiherald, "He couldn't pay smugglers for sneaking him over the border. So, he did this, cops say.," 10 July 2018 The last song was introduced with a tale about those who doubted him during his struggling years but now flatter him with appreciation. Brian Mccollum, Detroit Free Press, "Post Malone brings unlikely stardom, hits to Sterling Heights," 30 May 2018 More storybook-like were the naive motifs that popped up at Bally, Bode, and Lanvin, where both Babar and the fairy-tale baddy, the sly fox, were used as accents. Laird Borrelli-persson, Vogue, "It’s Time to Take a Recess From Serious Fashion—13 Camp Creations on the Fall Runways," 8 Apr. 2019 The play tells the tale of how, over the ensuing decades, the brothers built a giant of American finance. Bethany Mclean, Town & Country, "This New Play The Lehman Trilogy Turns the Financial Crisis Into High Art," 29 Mar. 2019 The picture book tells the tale of how the Peep helps the Easter Bunny every year to make a special celebration for kids around the world. Kelly O'sullivan, Country Living, "'Peep on a Perch' Is the New 'Elf on a Shelf'," 8 Mar. 2019 This somewhat dark teen comedy from the ‘80s tells the tale of a group of siblings whose mom goes out of town for the summer, leaving an elderly and mean babysitter in charge. Marie Claire, "The 17 Best Movies on HBO Go to Watch Right Now," 28 Feb. 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about tale

Statistics for tale

Last Updated

18 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for tale

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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 How to pronounce tale (audio) \

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


using a distributed computer network

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Time Traveler Quiz: Which Word Came First?

  • time traveler quiz which word came first
  • Which came first?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


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!