explain

verb
ex·​plain | \ ik-ˈsplān How to pronounce explain (audio) \
explained; explaining; explains

Definition of explain

transitive verb

1a : to make known explain the secret of your success
b : to make plain or understandable footnotes that explain the terms
2 : to give the reason for or cause of unable to explain his strange conduct
3 : to show the logical development or relationships of explained the new theory

intransitive verb

: to make something plain or understandable a report that suggests rather than explains
explain oneself
: to clarify one's statements or the reasons for one's conduct

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Other Words from explain

explainable \ ik-​ˈsplā-​nə-​bəl How to pronounce explain (audio) \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for explain

explain, expound, explicate, elucidate, interpret mean to make something clear or understandable. explain implies a making plain or intelligible what is not immediately obvious or entirely known. explain the rules expound implies a careful often elaborate explanation. expounding a scientific theory explicate adds the idea of a developed or detailed analysis. explicate a poem elucidate stresses the throwing of light upon as by offering details or motives previously unclear or only implicit. elucidate an obscure passage interpret adds to explain the need for imagination or sympathy or special knowledge in dealing with something. interpreting a work of art

Examples of explain in a Sentence

I need a lawyer to explain this contract to me. The professor explained the poem to the class. She explained how the machine worked. I explained to them that I would be available by phone. Scientists could not explain the strange lights in the sky. I don't know how to explain the dog's strange behavior. We asked him to explain his reasons to us. Can you explain why no one was informed earlier? That explains why we were so far behind schedule. Give me a chance to explain.
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Recent Examples on the Web Marvel might finally explain a lingering Avengers: Endgame mystery about the original Captain America. Chris Smith, BGR, 20 Sep. 2021 Players will have to explain themselves to teammates, as well as the public. Bruce Jenkins, San Francisco Chronicle, 18 Sep. 2021 This may partly explain some of the backlash, even among some disabled people, against changes like increasing funding of home and community based services, and ending sub-minimum wage. Andrew Pulrang, Forbes, 18 Sep. 2021 This may explain how more extreme stress coupled with underlying cardiac disease could precipitate life-threatening arrhythmias. Grace Leslie, Scientific American, 18 Sep. 2021 Myocarditis and pericarditis have most often been reported in younger people getting the vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain. Sarah Jacob, SELF, 17 Sep. 2021 Katelyn thinks about that day, the deaths, and wonders how to explain it to her 3-year-old. Stephanie Hanes, The Christian Science Monitor, 7 Sep. 2021 TikTok this week announced a new feature that will prompt parents and guardians of teens to find out more about the platform’s privacy and safety settings, and help explain them to their children. Katie Deighton, WSJ, 3 Sep. 2021 Coach Head says the incident was a huge misunderstanding with what had transpired and trying to explain it to law-enforcement officials. Chris Hays, orlandosentinel.com, 27 Aug. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'explain.' 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 explain

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1b

History and Etymology for explain

Middle English explanen, from Latin explanare, literally, to make level, from ex- + planus level, flat — more at floor

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Learn More About explain

Time Traveler for explain

Time Traveler

The first known use of explain was in the 15th century

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Dictionary Entries Near explain

expiscatory

explain

explain away

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Statistics for explain

Last Updated

24 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Explain.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/explain. Accessed 25 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for explain

explain

verb

English Language Learners Definition of explain

: to make (something) clear or easy to understand
: to tell, show, or be the reason for or cause of something

explain

verb
ex·​plain | \ ik-ˈsplān How to pronounce explain (audio) \
explained; explaining

Kids Definition of explain

1 : to make clear : clarify Let me explain how it works.
2 : to give the reasons for or cause of Please explain why you're late.

More from Merriam-Webster on explain

Nglish: Translation of explain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of explain for Arabic Speakers

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