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 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 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.
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).
Idioms about tell
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.
Other definitions for tell (2 of 3)
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 placename).
Other definitions for Tell (3 of 3)
Wil·helm [vil-helm]. /ˈvɪl hɛlm/. William Tell.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023
How to use tell in a sentence
One of the topics I discussed was self-talk, which in the endurance world is basically the idea that telling yourself “You can do this!”What Marathoners (and Badminton Players) Think About | Alex Hutchinson | February 26, 2021 | Outside Online
When confronted by PG&E investigators, Huggins told the investigators he had paid the $16,750 bill in cash, which he happened to have on hand in his house.Lawsuit Reveals New Allegations Against PG&E Contractor Accused of Fraud | by Scott Morris, Bay City News Foundation | February 26, 2021 | ProPublica
Her grandson later reached out to Botros to thank him personally — and told him that the woman called all of her friends and urged them to get their shots, too.The joy of vax: The people giving the shots are seeing hope, and it’s contagious | Maura Judkis | February 25, 2021 | Washington Post
The agents were telling him that they could lock him up for the rest of his life.
I feel his silence gives her permission to be unkind and tells me that I don't matter to him.Miss Manners: Get out of Dodge before the abusive mother-in-law visits | Judith Martin, Nicholas Martin, Jacobina Martin | February 25, 2021 | Washington Post
As far as I can tell, this magazine spent as much time making fun of French politicians as it did of Muslims or Islam.
Police, their representatives and supporters tell us, ensure our freedom of speech through our ability to protest.Politicians Only Love Journalists When They're Dead | Luke O’Neil | January 8, 2015 | THE DAILY BEAST
“Jeffrey wanted me to tell you that you looked so pretty,” the female voice said into my disbelieving ear.I Tried to Warn You About Sleazy Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein in 2003 | Vicky Ward | January 7, 2015 | THE DAILY BEAST
They were going to tell their story, consequences be damned.I Tried to Warn You About Sleazy Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein in 2003 | Vicky Ward | January 7, 2015 | THE DAILY BEAST
And I tell Ollie, just look at me, because they just pulled out the pistolas.The Story Behind Lee Marvin’s Liberty Valance Smile | Robert Ward | January 3, 2015 | THE DAILY BEAST
And to tell the truth, she couldn't help wishing he could see, so he could make the game livelier.The Tale of Grandfather Mole | Arthur Scott Bailey
Ages back—let musty geologists tell us how long ago—'twas a lake, larger than the Lake of Geneva.
Each day she resolved, "To-morrow I will tell Felipe;" and when to-morrow came, she put it off again.Ramona | Helen Hunt Jackson
He wanted to tell her that if she called her father, it would mean the end of everything for them, but he withheld this.The Homesteader | Oscar Micheaux
Monsieur,” growls the baron, “stone walls have ears, you say if only they had tongues; what tales these could tell!Checkmate | Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
British Dictionary definitions for tell (1 of 3)
(when tr, may take a clause as object) to let know or notify: he 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; utter: to tell the truth
(tr) to make known; disclose: to tell fortunes
(intr often foll by of) to serve as an indication: her blush told of her embarrassment
(tr; used with can, etc; may take a clause as object) to comprehend, discover, or discern: I can tell what is wrong
(tr; used with can, etc) to distinguish or discriminate: he couldn't tell chalk from cheese
(intr) to have or produce an impact, effect, or strain: every 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 assure: I 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
- tellable, adjective
British Dictionary definitions for tell (2 of 3)
a large mound resulting from the accumulation of rubbish on a long-settled site, esp one with mudbrick buildings, particularly in the Middle East
British Dictionary definitions for Tell (3 of 3)
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
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
Other 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.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.