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

Example Sentences

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 But the fact the newsroom has been static according to what Trotter was saying is highly telling. Mike Freeman, USA TODAY, 29 Mar. 2023 In a telling moment in the pilot, Amy pulls into the garage and receives a flurry of urgent text messages about her job, child and house. Meredith Blake, Los Angeles Times, 5 Apr. 2023 Maybe an even more telling comment came from one of those who lost. Louisa Thomas, The New Yorker, 22 Mar. 2023 But, perhaps, the most telling statistic showing how the pandemic has shifted transit use in both regions is in the significant changes seen in overall transit trips per-capita. Ricardo Cano, San Francisco Chronicle, 18 Mar. 2023 There are many stories about the noble canine, but the most telling anecdote came during a Solomon Derby. David Reamer | Alaska History, Anchorage Daily News, 12 Mar. 2023 Also, there is a very telling statistic on the scarcity from human donors today. Deeptee Jain, Forbes, 9 Mar. 2023 Dallas-area coaches agreed scoring defense is a more telling stat than yards allowed. Dallas News, 7 Dec. 2022 His most telling contribution was a late challenge on Yunus Musah just before halftime that earned him a yellow card. Time, 21 Nov. 2022 See More

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 3 Jun. 2023.

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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