tell·​tale ˈtel-ˌtāl How to pronounce telltale (audio)
: an outward sign : indication
: a device for indicating or recording something: such as
: a wind-direction indicator often in the form of a ribbon
: a strip of metal on the front wall of a racquets or squash court above which the ball must be hit
telltale adjective

Examples of telltale in a Sentence

the media's professional telltales have basically decided that today's celebrities have no right to privacy the department telltale told the boss that his coworkers were taking extra long breaks
Recent Examples on the Web Many of them were topped with ominous radar images or a telltale swirl with a colorful eye. Madeleine Marr Miami Herald (tns), al, 23 Aug. 2023 To him, any piece of a ship is a telltale: How it was constructed speaks volumes about where and when a ship was built. Lawrence Specker |, al, 9 July 2023 Oakley’s script draws from the experience of lesbians oppressed under Section 28, and that verisimilitude informs every moment of McEwen’s quiet but stirring performance, the strain showing in telltale flickers across her face. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 20 June 2023 Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/P. Marenfeld De was poring over data from the Zwicky Transit Facility (ZTF) at the Palomar Observatory in California about three years ago, hunting for the telltale brightening (by a factor of a few thousand times over the course of a week) that marks a nova. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 3 May 2023 This syndrome originally surfaced in 1926, when residents of Haverhill, Massachusetts drank unwholesome milk and suffered soaring temps, aching joints, and skin lesions ranging from flat, red spots to papules, pustules, and blisters—the same telltale features earlier linked to bites. Claire Panosian Dunavan, Discover Magazine, 28 Feb. 2018 To Kidd, the telltale is the manner in which the Mavericks finally put the Warriors on their heels defensively. Dallas News, 25 May 2022 Then came a day in February 2011 when Martensen noticed a telltale node in his neck while taking a shower. David Ewing Duncan, Discover Magazine, 30 Oct. 2012 While the clients appreciated the amenities and the layout of the apartment, gone were the storied details typical of a Candela design and telltale of a New York City apartment, in our client’s minds. Jessica Cherner, House Beautiful, 4 Nov. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'telltale.' 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

1548, in the meaning defined at sense 1b

Time Traveler
The first known use of telltale was in 1548

Cite this Entry

“Telltale.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
: an outward sign : indication


2 of 2 adjective
: indicating or giving evidence of something
telltale fingerprints

More from Merriam-Webster on telltale

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