See more synonyms for explain on Thesaurus.com
verb (used with object)
  1. to make plain or clear; render understandable or intelligible: to explain an obscure point.
  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.
verb (used without object)
  1. to give an explanation.
Verb Phrases
  1. explain away,
    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.

Origin of explain

1375–1425; late Middle English explanen < Latin explānāre to smooth out, make intelligible, spread out on flat surface. See ex-1, plane1
Related formsex·plain·a·ble, adjectiveex·plain·er, ex·pla·na·tor [ek-spluh-ney-ter] /ˈɛk spləˌneɪ tər/, nounmis·ex·plained, adjectivenon·ex·plain·a·ble, adjectiveo·ver·ex·plain, verbpre·ex·plain, verbre·ex·plain, verb (used with object)un·ex·plain·a·ble, adjectiveun·ex·plain·a·bly, adverbun·ex·plained, adjectiveun·ex·plain·ing, adjectivewell-ex·plained, adjective

Synonym study

1. Explain, elucidate, expound, interpret imply making the meaning of something clear or understandable. To explain is to make plain, clear, or intelligible something that is not known or understood: to explain a theory or a problem. To elucidate is to throw light on what before was dark and obscure, usually by illustration and commentary and sometimes by elaborate explanation: They asked him to elucidate his statement. To expound is to give a methodical, detailed, scholarly explanation of something, usually Scriptures, doctrines, or philosophy: to expound the doctrine of free will. To interpret is to give the meaning of something by paraphrase, by translation, or by an explanation based on personal opinion: to interpret a poem or a symbol.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for explained

related, interpreted, told

Examples from the Web for explained

Contemporary Examples of explained

Historical Examples of explained

  • But that Hope loved him ardently there was no doubt, however it might be explained.


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • There was so much to tell, more than could ever be explained or justified.


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • When it is to be cooked in this way, prepare it in the manner just explained.

    Woman's Institute Library of Cookery, Vol. 2

    Woman's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences

  • "He just stopped me to say it's been the best year he ever had," she explained, with ostentatious vanity.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • "A kleptomaniac," Smithson explained, retaining his manner of mild insistence.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

British Dictionary definitions for explained


  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
Derived Formsexplainable, adjectiveexplainer, noun

Word Origin for explain

C15: from Latin explānāre to flatten, from plānus level
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for explained



early 15c., from Latin explanare "to make level, smooth out;" also "to explain, make clear" (see explanation).

Originally explane, spelling altered by influence of plain. Also see plane (v.2). In 17c., occasionally used more literally, of the unfolding of material things: Evelyn has buds that "explain into leaves" ["Sylva, or, A discourse of forest-trees, and the propagation of timber in His Majesties dominions," 1664]. Related: Explained; explaining; explains.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper