tell

verb
\ ˈtel How to pronounce tell (audio) \
told\ ˈtōld How to pronounce tell (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 Only time will tell what long-term effect such changes will have on jobs. Washington Post, "As the tourism industry returns, 3 million workers wait for a callback," 16 Apr. 2021 Seven instrumentalists and three speaking parts will tell the tale of a soldier who trades his fiddle to the devil for a lifetime of riches. oregonlive, "5 things to do this week: Ashland Film Fest, Portland Opera, and 30 days of Doggie Dash," 14 Apr. 2021 Time will tell if the Netflix series will get eight seasons too. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Bridgerton Has Been Renewed for Seasons 3 and 4," 13 Apr. 2021 In… The Ideal State People in Chicago will tell you that there is a happy land not far away. Ishmael Reed, Harpers Magazine, "Archive: 2020," 13 Apr. 2021 And, don’t forget that videos are one of the most effective ways to tell impact stories, as they are more often viewed and shared than other social media content. Autumn Strier, Forbes, "Giving Without Borders: How To Expand Your Fundraising Footprint For Growth," 12 Apr. 2021 Make sure your taillights work, Leisure will tell him. Dan Horn, The Enquirer, "'It hurts your soul': Timothy Thomas's mom left Cincinnati to rebuild her life," 10 Apr. 2021 Time will tell! Because we are allowed a few nice things, that’s not the only Owen drag of the episode. Maggie Fremont, Vulture, "Grey’s Anatomy Recap: Wakey, Wakey," 9 Apr. 2021 As the New Yorkers will tell you: Never pick up a can of pop without assuming a rat peed on it. Star Tribune, "Lileks: Will we ever get over our pandemic cleaning fetish?," 9 Apr. 2021

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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Time Traveler for tell

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for tell

Last Updated

18 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tell.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tell. Accessed 19 Apr. 2021.

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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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Comments on tell

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