tell

verb
\ ˈtel \
told\ ˈtōld \; telling

Definition of tell

 (Entry 1 of 3)

transitive verb

1a : to relate in detail : narrate told the whole story to us
b : to give utterance to : say could never tell a lie
2a : to make known : divulge, reveal don't tell your password
b : to express in words she never told her love— William Shakespeare
3a : to give information to : inform tell us about your job
b : to assure emphatically they did not do it, I tell you
4 : order, direct told me to wait
5 : to find out by observing : recognize you can tell it's a masterpiece
6 : count, enumerate tell the stars, if thou be able to number them — Genesis 15:5 (King James Version)

intransitive verb

1 : to give an account an article telling of her experience
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 meInside Detective
3 : to serve as evidence or indication
4 : to have a marked effect the pressure was beginning to tell on him

tell

noun (1)
\ ˈtel \
plural tells

Definition of tell (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : an inadvertent behavior or mannerism that betrays a poker player's true thoughts, intentions, or emotions The World Series of Poker: earth's greatest liars gathered together with millions of dollars on the line … . It's a blur of action, but the educated spectator ignores these distractions and focuses on the players' mannerisms—it's all part of the science of tells, reflexes a player can't control that, read right, give away his thoughts. — Seth Stevenson
2 : a revealing gesture, expression, etc., that is likened to a poker player's tell But his eyes darted fractionally to one side as he said it …; the classic liar's tell.— Stephen King broadly : sign, indication I talked to staffers who said that their bosses had two or three flights booked getting out of town, a big tell that there was not going to be a deal. — Kelly O'Donnell

tell

noun (2)

Definition of tell (Entry 3 of 3)

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

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Choose the Right Synonym for tell

Verb

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

Examples of tell in a Sentence

Verb

He told us the story. Has she told you the good news, yet? Please tell us your name and occupation. She looked at the palm of my hand and told me my fortune. If you see her, tell her hello for me. “I feel sick,” he told his mom. “What is his name?” “I don't know. He didn't tell me.” “Who is the letter from?” “I'm not telling.” I promise not to tell anyone. I can't tell you because it's a secret.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The exhibition tells a remarkable story of pre-modern India relatively untouched by British influence. Sharmila Mukherjee, The Seattle Times, "SAM’s ‘Peacock in the Desert’ opens the doors of our perception to the marvelous," 2 Jan. 2019 Ian tells Brianna the story of Bonnet robbing them and how guilty Jamie is because of it. Outlander Fan, Marie Claire, "5 Biggest Takeaways From 'Outlander' Season 4 Episode 9," 31 Dec. 2018 By Roda Ahmed Illustrated by Stasia Burrington This book tells the amazing story of Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to go to space. Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, "Without question, these are 2018’s best space books for kids," 29 Dec. 2018 Here are the brands whose highs and lows tell the story of a hard-fought year. Chavie Lieber, Vox, "A breakdown of this year’s brand winners and losers.," 27 Dec. 2018 The best books of this year told stories of interstellar colonization, of fantastic magical civilizations, optimistic alternate worlds, and devastating potential futures. Andrew Liptak, The Verge, "Our favorite science fiction and fantasy books of 2018," 21 Dec. 2018 The book is known for its atypical narrative style, and tells a story with everything from emails to emergency room bills. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Where'd You Go, Bernadette," 18 Dec. 2018 Burnout is probably the biggest risk that influencers face — constant public scrutiny, as any celebrity can tell you, is exhausting. Elizabeth Lopatto, The Verge, "Elon Musk is the first influencer CEO," 21 Dec. 2018 Facebook may have reached more people — 126 million people compared to Instagram’s estimated 20 million — but advertisers will tell you that engagement matters a lot. Kurt Wagner, Recode, "Instagram posts from Russian meddlers played a much bigger role in the 2016 election than we thought," 17 Dec. 2018

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.

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First Known Use of tell

Verb

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 6

Noun (1)

1974, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (2)

1840, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for tell

Verb

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

Noun (2)

Arabic tall

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Statistics for tell

Last Updated

14 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for tell

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

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More Definitions for tell

tell

verb

English Language Learners Definition of tell

: 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

verb
\ ˈtel \
told\ ˈtōld \; telling

Kids Definition of tell

1 : to let a person know something : to give information to I'll tell them when they get here.
2 : order entry 1 sense 2 The policeman told us to wait.
3 : to find out by observing My little brother has learned to tell time.
4 : say entry 1 sense 1 Don't tell a lie.
5 : to describe in detail Can you tell me a story?
6 : to make known tell a secret
7 : to bring the bad behavior of to the attention of an authority Don't tell on me.
8 : count entry 1 sense 1 All told there were 27 of us.
9 : to have a noticeable result The pressure began to tell on them.
10 : to act as evidence They had smiles telling of success.
11 : to see or understand the differences between two people or things Can you tell right from wrong?
12 : to see or know (something) with certainty It's hard to tell if he's serious.

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More from Merriam-Webster on tell

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with tell

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for tell

Spanish Central: Translation of tell

Nglish: Translation of tell for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tell for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about tell

Comments on tell

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