tell

verb
\ ˈtel How to pronounce tell (audio) \
told\ ˈtōld How to pronounce told (audio) \; 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 How to pronounce tell (audio) \
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 #MeToo movement, which social activist Tarana Burke had started in 2006, took off on October 15, when the actress Alyssa Milano told women to share their own Weinstein-like stories. Lyz Lenz, Glamour, "I Wanted to Fall in Love With Men. I Also Wanted Men to Leave Me the Hell Alone," 15 Apr. 2019 Everyone shows up for a parlay, and when Jon does his show-and-tell bit with the wight, Cersei pretends to be properly spooked. Ineye Komonibo, Marie Claire, "This Is How Season 7 of 'Game of Thrones' Ended," 13 Apr. 2019 Long Island man Gerard Chasteen shot a Mavik 2 Zoom drone out of the sky over his home in St. James with a shotgun on Saturday, local police tell he New York Post. Eric Limer, Popular Mechanics, "Man Shotguns Drone Searching for Lost Dog," 25 Feb. 2019 But as Lionel told People back in November, the Dancing With the Stars winner better be ready to deal with ... a lot. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "What the 'American Idol' Judges Really Think About Bobby Bones Being a Mentor," 19 Feb. 2019 Did Donald Trump tell Michael Cohen to lie to congress about a Moscow Trump Tower deal? Lynn Yaeger, Vogue, "The Week in Washington: “I Never Worked for Russia!”," 20 Jan. 2019 Justin Bronk of British military think tank RUSI told Popular Mechanics. David Hambling, Popular Mechanics, "The Truth Behind Russia’s 'Apocalypse Torpedo'," 18 Jan. 2019 But what may be most telling about this process is how many don’t want to repeat it. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "Amazon HQ2 bids: The weird ways cities wanted to woo Bezos," 27 Dec. 2018 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

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

18 Apr 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 How to pronounce tell (audio) \
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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