: a usually imaginative narrative of an event : story
: an intentionally untrue report : falsehood
always preferred the tale to the truth Sir Winston Churchill
: a series of events or facts told or presented : account
: a report of a private or confidential matter
dead men tell no tales
: a libelous report or piece of gossip
: total
obsolete : discourse, talk

Example Sentences

The movie is a stirring tale of courage. We listened to his familiar tale of woe as he talked again about the failure of his marriage. He told us thrilling tales about his adventures as a pilot in the war. Are you telling tales again? Or is that the truth?
Recent Examples on the Web That is a cautionary tale for investors hoping that the worst has passed after last week’s stock rally. Gunjan Banerji, WSJ, 13 Nov. 2022 Berlin Panorama player is a coming-of-age tale of boys who feel left out. Shalini Dore, Variety, 2 Nov. 2022 The market turmoil in the UK — and sudden collapse of the Truss government — could prove to be a cautionary tale. Matt Egan, CNN, 1 Nov. 2022 This is nature as restorative therapy, in theory, but clearly not all interpersonal issues have been resolved—one reason the film succeeds is that this is no simple tale of nurturing sisterhood. Tom Vanderbilt, Outside Online, 31 Oct. 2022 Powered by Blanchett’s baton-wielding tour de force, the film is a modern tale about a cultural giant who uses her power in not-so-great fashion, so there’s shades of #MeToo at play. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, 27 Oct. 2022 The crowd laughed in recognition, so famous is the tale of how Mamaw’s life lessons about loyalty, education and self-esteem helped Mr. Vance to overcome a poor, dysfunctional childhood. Dan Barry, New York Times, 27 Oct. 2022 But that’s only because this is a tale of justice, not vengeance. Michael O'sullivan, Washington Post, 20 Oct. 2022 The two films are about much more than jumpscares—they’re a tale of striving for your dreams, and what terrifying lengths people will go to achieve them. Christian Allaire, Vogue, 19 Oct. 2022 See More

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

Word History


Middle English, from Old English talu; akin to Old Norse tala talk

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

Time Traveler
The first known use of tale was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near tale

Cite this Entry

“Tale.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tale. Accessed 28 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition

: something told
a tale of woe
: a story about an imaginary event
a fairy tale
: a false story : lie
: a piece of harmful gossip
spread tales about us

More from Merriam-Webster on tale

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