[ ik-spleyn ]
See synonyms for: explainexplainedexplainingexplains 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.

  1. to assign a meaning to; interpret: How can you explain such a silly remark?

  2. 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,

    • 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.

    • to dispel (doubts, difficulties, etc.) by explanation: She explained away the child's fears.

Origin of explain

First recorded in 1375–1425; late Middle English explanen, from Latin explānāre “to smooth out, make intelligible, spread out on flat surface”; see origin at ex-1, plane1

Other words for explain

Opposites for explain

Other words from explain

  • ex·plain·a·ble, adjective
  • ex·plain·er, ex·pla·na·tor [ek-spluh-ney-ter], /ˈɛk spləˌneɪ tər/, 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

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use explain in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for explain


/ (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

Origin of explain

C15: from Latin explānāre to flatten, from plānus level

Derived forms of explain

  • explainable, adjective
  • explainer, noun

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