tell·​ing ˈte-liŋ How to pronounce telling (audio)
: carrying great weight and producing a marked effect : effective, expressive
the most telling evidence
tellingly adverb
Choose the Right Synonym for telling

valid, sound, cogent, convincing, telling mean having such force as to compel serious attention and usually acceptance.

valid implies being supported by objective truth or generally accepted authority.

a valid reason for being absent
a valid marriage

sound implies a basis of flawless reasoning or of solid grounds.

a sound proposal for reviving the economy

cogent may stress either weight of sound argument and evidence or lucidity of presentation.

the prosecutor's cogent summation won over the jury

convincing suggests a power to overcome doubt, opposition, or reluctance to accept.

a convincing argument for welfare reform

telling stresses an immediate and crucial effect striking at the heart of a matter.

a telling example of bureaucratic waste

Examples of telling in a Sentence

Her experience is a telling example of why the nation's educational system needs to be changed. The most telling moment in the case was when the victim took the stand.
Recent Examples on the Web Concern about the power of the Supreme Court was one of the most telling critiques by the Anti-Federalists. Janice Rogers Brown, National Review, 22 June 2024 No play, however, was more telling than the one leaving the Greek Freak publicly frustrated with his team’s defense. Kristian Winfield, New York Daily News, 7 Apr. 2024 The most telling commonality was that all the 12-year-old children with current psychotic symptoms had had significantly more emotional, behavioral and educational problems at age five than did their asymptomatic peers. Victoria Costello, Scientific American, 1 Mar. 2012 The most telling detail of Monday’s demo, in my view, was the way that OpenAI’s own employees have started talking to ChatGPT. Kevin Roose, New York Times, 14 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for telling 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'telling.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1819, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of telling was in 1819

Dictionary Entries Near telling

Cite this Entry

“Telling.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


: producing a noticeable effect : effective
the most telling evidence

More from Merriam-Webster on telling

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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