- to give an account or narrative of; narrate; relate (a story, tale, etc.): to tell the story of Lincoln's childhood.
- to make known by speech or writing (a fact, news, information, etc.); communicate.
- to announce or proclaim.
- to utter (the truth, a lie, etc.).
- to express in words (thoughts, feelings, etc.).
- to reveal or divulge (something secret or private).
- to say plainly or positively: I cannot tell just what was done.
- to discern or recognize (a distant person or thing) so as to be able to identify or describe: Can you tell who that is over there?
- to distinguish; discriminate; ascertain: You could hardly tell the difference between them.
- to inform (a person) of something: He told me his name.
- to assure emphatically: I won't, I tell you!
- to bid, order, or command: Tell him to stop.
- to mention one after another, as in enumerating; count or set one by one or in exact amount: to tell the cattle in a herd; All told there were 17 if we are correct.
- to give an account or report: Tell me about your trip.
- to give evidence or be an indication: The ruined temples told of an ancient culture, long since passed from existence.
- to disclose something secret or private; inform; tattle: She knows who did it, but she won't tell.
- to say positively; determine; predict: Who can tell?
- to have force or effect; operate effectively: a contest in which every stroke tells.
- to produce a marked or severe effect: The strain was telling on his health.
- British Dialect. to talk or chat.
- tell off,
- to separate from the whole and assign to a particular duty.
- Informal.to rebuke severely; scold: It was about time that someone told him off.
- tell on, to tattle on (someone).
- tell it like it is, Informal. to tell the complete, unadulterated truth; be forthright: He may be crude but he tells it like it is.
Origin of tell1
SynonymsSee more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
- an artificial mound consisting of the accumulated remains of one or more ancient settlements (often used in Egypt and the Middle East as part of a place name).
Origin of tell2
- Wil·helm [vil-helm] /ˈvɪl hɛlm/. William Tell.
Examples from the Web for tell
As far as I can tell, this magazine spent as much time making fun of French politicians as it did of Muslims or Islam.Harry Shearer on The Dangerous Business of Satire
January 8, 2015
One bystander said he was told to tell the media that they were from al Qaeda in Yemen, or al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.France Mourns—and Hunts
Nico Hines, Christopher Dickey
January 8, 2015
“Jeffrey wanted me to tell you that you looked so pretty,” the female voice said into my disbelieving ear.
They were going to tell their story, consequences be damned.
And I tell Ollie, just look at me, because they just pulled out the pistolas.The Story Behind Lee Marvin’s Liberty Valance Smile
January 3, 2015
Tell Mrs. Van Geist if she can't come down, I'll run up to her.
Take it at once, and tell her I shall be up to see her presently.
I could tell it, if nothing else showed it, by the way in which she overdoes respectability.
Don't mind him, dad—I know all about it, I tell you—I'll explain later to you.
Did he tell you how to make a lovely asparagus short-cake or something?
- (when tr, may take a clause as object) to let know or notifyhe told me that he would go
- (tr) to order or instruct (someone to do something)I told her to send the letter airmail
- (when intr, usually foll by of) to give an account or narration (of something)she told me her troubles
- (tr) to communicate by words; utterto tell the truth
- (tr) to make known; discloseto tell fortunes
- (intr often foll by of) to serve as an indicationher blush told of her embarrassment
- (tr; used with can, etc; may take a clause as object) to comprehend, discover, or discernI can tell what is wrong
- (tr; used with can, etc) to distinguish or discriminatehe couldn't tell chalk from cheese
- (intr) to have or produce an impact, effect, or strainevery step told on his bruised feet
- (intr sometimes foll by on) informal to reveal secrets or gossip (about)don't tell!; she told on him
- (tr) to assureI tell you, I've had enough!
- (tr) to count (votes)
- (intr) dialect to talk or chatter
- informal, mainly US to tell the truth no matter how unpleasant it is
- tell the time to read the time from a clock
- you're telling me slang I know that very well
- a large mound resulting from the accumulation of rubbish on a long-settled site, esp one with mudbrick buildings, particularly in the Middle East
- William, German name Wilhelm Tell. a legendary Swiss patriot, who, traditionally, lived in the early 14th century and was compelled by an Austrian governor to shoot an apple from his son's head with one shot of his crossbow. He did so without mishap
Word Origin and History for tell
Old English tellan "to reckon, calculate, consider, account," from Proto-Germanic *taljanan "to mention in order" (cf. Old Saxon tellian, Old Norse telja, Old Frisian tella "to count, tell," Dutch tellen "to count, reckon," Old Saxon talon "to count, reckon," Danish tale "to speak," Old High German zalon, German zählen "to count, reckon"), from root *talo (see tale). Meaning "to narrate, relate" is from c.1000; that of "to make known by speech or writing, announce" is from early 12c. Sense of "to reveal or disclose" is from c.1400; that of "to act as an informer, to 'peach' " is recorded from 1901. Meaning "to order (someone to do something)" is from 1590s. Original sense in teller and phrase to tell time. For sense evolution, cf. French conter "to count," raconter "to recount;" Italian contare, Spanish contar "to count, recount, narrate;" German zählen "to count," erzählen "to recount, narrate."
I tolde hyme so, & euer he seyde nay. [Thomas Hoccleve, "The Regiment of Princes," c.1412]
Telling "having effect or force" is from 1852.
"mound, hill," 1864, from Arabic tall, related to Hebrew tel "mount, hill, heap."
Idioms and Phrases with tell
In addition to the idioms beginning with tell
- tell apart
- tell a thing or two
- tell it like it is
- tell it to the Marines
- tell me
- tell off
- tell on
- tell someone where to get off
- tell tales
- tell time
- do tell
- kiss and tell
- show and tell
- something tells me
- there's no telling
- thing or two, tell a
- time will tell
- which is which, tell
- you never can tell
- you're telling me
Also see undertold.