verb \ˈtel\

Definition of tell


play \ˈtōld\;


  1. transitive verb
  2. 1a :  to relate in detail :  narrate told the whole story to usb :  to give utterance to :  say could never tell a lie

  3. 2a :  to make known :  divulge, reveal don't tell your passwordb :  to express in words she never told her love — William Shakespeare

  4. 3a :  to give information to :  inform tell us about your jobb :  to assure emphatically they did not do it, I tell you

  5. 4 :  order, direct told me to wait

  6. 5 :  to find out by observing :  recognize you can tell it's a masterpiece

  7. 6 :  count, enumerate tell the stars, if thou be able to number them — Genesis 15:5 (King James Version)

  8. intransitive verb
  9. 1 :  to give an account an article telling of her experience

  10. 2 :  to tell someone (such as a parent or other person of authority) about what someone else has done —often used with on I'll get even with you if you ever tell on me — Inside Detective

  11. 3 :  to serve as evidence or indication

  12. 4 :  to have a marked effect the pressure was beginning to tell on him

Examples of tell in a Sentence

  1. He told us the story.

  2. Has she told you the good news, yet?

  3. Please tell us your name and occupation.

  4. She looked at the palm of my hand and told me my fortune.

  5. If you see her, tell her hello for me.

  6. I feel sick, he told his mom.

  7. What is his name? I don't know. He didn't tell me.

  8. Who is the letter from? I'm not telling.

  9. I promise not to tell anyone.

  10. I can't tell you because it's a secret.

Recent Examples of tell from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tell'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of tell

Middle English, from Old English tellan; akin to Old High German zellen to count, tell, Old English talu tale

Synonym Discussion of tell

reveal, disclose, divulge, tell, betray mean to make known what has been or should be concealed. reveal may apply to supernatural or inspired revelation of truths beyond the range of ordinary human vision or reason. divine will as revealed in sacred writings disclose may imply a discovering but more often an imparting of information previously kept secret. candidates must disclose their financial assets divulge implies a disclosure involving some impropriety or breach of confidence. refused to divulge an anonymous source tell implies an imparting of necessary or useful information. told them what he had overheard betray implies a divulging that represents a breach of faith or an involuntary or unconscious disclosure. a blush that betrayed her embarrassment




Definition of tell

  1. :  hill, mound; specifically :  an ancient mound in the Middle East composed of remains of successive settlements

Origin and Etymology of tell

Arabic tall

TELL Defined for English Language Learners



Definition of tell for English Language Learners

  • : to say or write (something) to (someone)

  • : to say (a word or words) to (someone)

  • : to give information to (someone) by speaking or writing

TELL Defined for Kids


verb \ˈtel\

Definition of tell for Students




  1. 1 :  to let a person know something :  to give information to I'll tell them when they get here.

  2. 2 :  1order 2 The policeman told us to wait.

  3. 3 :  to find out by observing My little brother has learned to tell time.

  4. 4 :  1say 1 Don't tell a lie.

  5. 5 :  to describe in detail Can you tell me a story?

  6. 6 :  to make known tell a secret

  7. 7 :  to bring the bad behavior of to the attention of an authority Don't tell on me.

  8. 8 :  1count 1 All told there were 27 of us.

  9. 9 :  to have a noticeable result The pressure began to tell on them.

  10. 10 :  to act as evidence They had smiles telling of success.

  11. 11 :  to see or understand the differences between two people or things Can you tell right from wrong?

  12. 12 :  to see or know (something) with certainty It's hard to tell if he's serious.

Seen and Heard

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to be a fixed element or attribute

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