1

tell

verb \ ˈtel \
Updated on: 25 Nov 2017

Definition of tell

told play \ˈtōld\; telling
transitive verb
1 a : to relate in detail : narrate
  • told the whole story to us
b : to give utterance to : say
  • could never tell a lie
2 a : to make known : divulge, reveal
  • don't tell your password
b : to express in words
  • she never told her love
  • —William Shakespeare
3 a : 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 me
  • Inside Detective
3 : to serve as evidence or indication
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

2

tell

noun \ ˈtel \

Definition of tell

plural tells
: 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
; also : 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

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.

First Known Use of tell

1974


3

tell

noun

Definition of tell

: 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

tell

verb

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

tell

verb \ ˈtel \

Definition of tell for Students

told \ˈtōld\; telling
1 : to let a person know something : to give information to
  • I'll tell them when they get here.
2 : 1order 2
  • The policeman told us to wait.
3 : to find out by observing
  • My little brother has learned to tell time.
4 : 1say 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 : 1count 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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