View synonyms for explain


[ ik-spleyn ]

verb (used with object)

  1. to make plain or clear; render understandable or intelligible:

    to explain an obscure point.

    Synonyms: explicate

    Antonyms: confuse

  2. to make known in detail:

    to explain how to do something.

  3. to assign a meaning to; interpret:

    How can you explain such a silly remark?

  4. to make clear the cause or reason of; account for:

    I cannot explain his strange behavior.

    Synonyms: justify

verb (used without object)

  1. to give an explanation.

verb phrase

    1. to diminish or nullify the significance of by explanation:

      He couldn't explain away his absence from home at the time the robbery was committed.

    2. to dispel (doubts, difficulties, etc.) by explanation:

      She explained away the child's fears.


/ ɪkˈspleɪn /


  1. when tr, may take a clause as object to make (something) comprehensible, esp by giving a clear and detailed account of the relevant structure, operation, surrounding circumstances, etc
  2. tr to justify or attempt to justify (oneself) by giving reasons for one's actions or words

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Derived Forms

  • exˈplainable, adjective
  • exˈplainer, noun

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Other Words From

  • ex·plaina·ble adjective
  • ex·plainer ex·pla·na·tor [ek, -spl, uh, -ney-ter], noun
  • misex·plained adjective
  • nonex·plaina·ble adjective
  • over·ex·plain verb
  • preex·plain verb
  • reex·plain verb (used with object)
  • unex·plaina·ble adjective
  • unex·plaina·bly adverb
  • unex·plained adjective
  • unex·plaining adjective
  • well-ex·plained adjective

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Word History and Origins

Origin of explain1

First recorded in 1375–1425; late Middle English explanen, from Latin explānāre “to smooth out, make intelligible, spread out on flat surface”; ex- 1, plane 1

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Word History and Origins

Origin of explain1

C15: from Latin explānāre to flatten, from plānus level

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Example Sentences

A grand juror in the Ferguson case is suing to be able to explain exactly what went down in the courtroom.

I asked her to explain more about these “private customers.”

After the curtain calls, Christopher comes back to explain a complicated math problem.

The problem is, how do you find a movie narrative that can explain genius, British or otherwise?

Nothing can be explained without the language to explain it.

We stood staring after the fugitives in perfect bewilderment, totally unable to explain their apparently causeless panic.

How, then, are we to explain this extraordinary discrepancy between human power and resulting human happiness?

The pulse in Louis's temples beat hard; yet he was determined not to anticipate, but make Wharton explain himself.

Would it not be more advisable to write to the London house itself, and explain the object of his coming up?

Father Fochel of the Cathedral had attempted to explain it; but he had not done so to her satisfaction.





expiscateexplain away