tell·​ing | \ ˈte-liŋ How to pronounce telling (audio) \

Definition of telling

: carrying great weight and producing a marked effect : effective, expressive the most telling evidence

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from telling

tellingly \ ˈte-​liŋ-​lē How to pronounce tellingly (audio) \ 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

One of the most telling moments of Kevin Durant’s brief appearance in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday night was brief and inconsequential. Scott Ostler,, "Why Kevin Durant’s injury is a growth opportunity — for all of us," 11 June 2019 And during an interview on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen to promote the movie, Theron got asked a very telling question. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Charlize Theron Turned Down the Role of Wonder Woman... 's Mom," 4 May 2019 The most telling sign is in the behavior of the young talent that isn’t yet on the market. Jared Diamond, WSJ, "Baseball’s Shifting Financial Equation: Long-Term Security Over Free Agency," 18 Feb. 2019 The publication also points to a very telling trademark request made by Kylie Jenner. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Kardashians Want to Trademark "Stormiworld" & All of Their Children's Names," 18 Feb. 2019 According to royal correspondent Rebecca English on Twitter, Prince Harry made a very telling comment about having more babies in the future. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Prince Harry Just Joked About Having More Babies with Meghan Markle," 5 Mar. 2019 The financial numbers provide a more telling story. Nick Statt, The Verge, "Amazon and Walmart’s rivalry is reshaping how we’ll buy everything in the future," 3 Aug. 2018 Elsewhere Here’s an extremely telling media-in-2018 story, courtesy this month’s Newswhip rankings of top publishers. Casey Newton, The Verge, "Facebook removes misinformation, but only on a technicality," 12 Oct. 2018 That extends to a certain Riverdale star, Camila Mendes, who by light of a very telling comment buried in the comments section of a @mytherapistsays post, might have just confirmed that her fellow co-stars, Lili Reinhart and Cole Sprouse are dating. Krystin Arneson, Glamour, "Camila Mendes Might Have Just Confirmed That Lili Reinhart and Cole Sprouse Are Dating," 18 Aug. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'telling.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of telling

1819, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about telling

Statistics for telling

Last Updated

16 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for telling

The first known use of telling was in 1819

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for telling



English Language Learners Definition of telling

: producing a strong or important effect
: giving information about someone or something without intending to

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on telling

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with telling

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for telling

Nglish: Translation of telling for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of telling for Arabic Speakers

Comments on telling

What made you want to look up telling? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


standardized text or formulaic language

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Finance Words Quiz

  • a-piggy-bank
  • The etymology of mortgage is related most closely to which two words?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!