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

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The Wall Street Journal reported in November that Chief Executive Officer Bobby Kotick knew about the allegations and didn’t tell the company’s board members. Jennifer Williams-alvarez, WSJ, 2 Aug. 2022 How would the blind tell the street from the sidewalk if electric cars spoke or barked? John Seabrook, The New Yorker, 1 Aug. 2022 If the marketing team isn’t joined at the hip with the product team and engaged with all of their plans and roadmaps, then the company simply won’t have a story to tell—and new product launches will suffer. Matt Lowe, Forbes, 1 Aug. 2022 Valerie Linfoot’s son, a fire dispatcher, called to tell her their family home of three decades in Klamath River had burned. Christopher Weber, BostonGlobe.com, 1 Aug. 2022 But the statistics don’t tell the full story, say safety experts. Tim Carman, Washington Post, 1 Aug. 2022 Now, Google is adding some new features to Maps that will tell you those things. Wired, 1 Aug. 2022 The stories these gems tell belong to the ages — as now, poignantly, so does Terry Cannon, the mirthful, thoughtful, masterful doer whose curiosity, energy and passion for his projects was boundless. New York Times, 31 July 2022 With waist beads ranging in cost from $11 per strand to $28 per strand, Fofana’s job is to tell customers how Ghanaian bead traditions are done, but not force others how to wear them. Darcel Rockett, Chicago Tribune, 31 July 2022 See More

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

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

Learn More About tell

Time Traveler for tell

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near tell

telium

tell

tell a different story

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for tell

Last Updated

4 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Tell.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tell. Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for tell

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.

More from Merriam-Webster on tell

Nglish: Translation of tell for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tell for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about tell

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Words You Should Know

  • hedgehog reading a book
  • Often used to describe “the march of time,” what does inexorable mean?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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