tell

1 of 3

verb

told ˈtōld How to pronounce tell (audio) ; telling

transitive verb

1
a
: to relate in detail : narrate
told the whole story to us
b
: to give utterance to : say
could never tell a lie
2
a
: to make known : divulge, reveal
don't tell your password
b
: to express in words
she never told her loveWilliam Shakespeare
3
a
: 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 themGenesis 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

2 of 3

noun (1)

plural tells
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

3 of 3

noun (2)

: hill, mound
specifically : an ancient mound in the Middle East composed of remains of successive settlements
Choose the Right Synonym for tell

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.
Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
The model, 70, was once afraid to get older, because she was told that getting older meant aging out of the industry. Hedy Phillips, Peoplemag, 2 June 2024 The New Hampshire State Police told the public who may have witnessed the crash to contact the Danbury Police Department. CLICK TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP The Federal Aviation Administration and the NTSB are investigating the incident further. Sarah Rumpf-Whitten, Fox News, 2 June 2024 Local hospitals told emergency dispatchers soon afterward that people were arriving in their emergency departments with gunshot wounds. CBS News, 2 June 2024 After a game one loss to Argyle in the UIL Class 5A high school baseball regional finals, Grapevine head coach Jimmy Webster told his team the Eagles better eliminate them in game two. Charles Baggarly, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 2 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for tell 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'tell.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Verb

Middle English, from Old English tellan; akin to Old High German zellen to count, tell, Old English talu tale

Noun (2)

Arabic tall

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near tell

Cite this Entry

“Tell.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tell. Accessed 13 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

tell

verb
ˈtel
told
ˈtōld
; telling
1
2
a
: to describe in detail : narrate
tell a story
b
: to give an account
an article telling of her experience
c
: say entry 1 sense 1a, utter
tell a lie
3
a
: to make known : reveal
tell a secret
b
: to express in words
can't tell you how pleased we are
4
: to give information to : inform
tell me as soon as the package gets here
5
: order entry 1 sense 2a, direct
told us to wait
6
: to find out by observing
can tell the child is honest
7
: to act as a tattletale
tell on a cheater
8
: to have a noticeable effect
the pressure began to tell on them
9
: to be evidence of : indicate
smiles telling of success

More from Merriam-Webster on tell

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