tell

verb
\ ˈtel How to pronounce tell (audio) \
told\ ˈtōld How to pronounce told (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

For me, a grading report is just like an insurance policy telling me in an unbiased manner what is the color, cut, clarity and so on of a stone. Mandy Behbehani, SFChronicle.com, "How to choose a lab-grown diamond," 10 June 2019 So Team Miller Lite rolled up, Cantroller in hand, and told us to go wild. Andrew Daniels, Popular Mechanics, "Miller Lite Turned a Beer Can Into a Video Game Controller, and We Tried It," 10 June 2019 Craig spoke to reporters Friday afternoon and told them that Martin was believed to be a homeless man who frequented the area in which the three victims were found. Fox News, "Detroit police investigating possible serial killer targeting sex workers arrest homeless man as 'person of interest'," 9 June 2019 But Brandon told the man his first duty should be to get sober. Mary Jo Pitzl, Arizona Republic, "The system took these parents' kids away. Now they're helping other parents get theirs back," 9 June 2019 Part of the job description is telling them where to go and what to do. Scott Mcmurren, Anchorage Daily News, "Expecting summer visitors? These 3 trips will give them a great Alaska experience," 8 June 2019 Young filmmakers will express themselves in the first person and will tell us what has happened to them . . . Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "The Truffaut Essays That Clear Up Misguided Notions of Auteurism," 8 June 2019 But almost no trader—or hedge fund manager or investment banker for that matter—completely ignores what the numbers are telling them. Bob Sellers, Fortune, "The Market May Be Hitting the Dreaded 'Triple Top'—a Red Flag to Investors," 7 June 2019 Here's what the experience told them: People want Walmart employees making the deliveries. Maria Halkias, Dallas News, "Walmart to begin direct to your fridge grocery delivery this fall," 7 June 2019

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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Statistics for tell

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Time Traveler for tell

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

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on tell

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with tell

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for tell

Spanish Central: Translation of tell

Nglish: Translation of tell for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tell for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about tell

Comments on tell

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