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

Examples from the Web for explainer

Contemporary Examples of explainer

Historical Examples of explainer

  • But the explanation of evils is never consoling except to the explainer.

  • Just as the explainer may pass from cause to effect so may the arguer.

    Public Speaking

    Clarence Stratton

  • If something graver could but be sifted out from all these journals and letters of frank confession, by the explainer!

    Ceres' Runaway

    Alice Meynell

British Dictionary definitions for explainer


  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 explainer



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