telltale

[tel-teyl]

noun

adjective

that reveals or betrays what is not intended to be known: a telltale blush.
giving notice or warning of something, as a mechanical device.

Origin of telltale

First recorded in 1540–50; tell1 + tale
Related formstell·tale·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019


British Dictionary definitions for tell tales

telltale

noun

a person who tells tales about others
  1. an outward indication of something concealed
  2. (as modifier)a telltale paw mark
any of various indicators or recording devices used to monitor a process, machine, etc
nautical
  1. another word for dogvane
  2. one of a pair of light vanes mounted on the main shrouds of a sailing boat to indicate the apparent direction of the wind
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 tell tales

telltale

1540s (n.), 1590s (adj.), from tell + tale, in phrase to tell a tale "relate a false or exaggerated story" (late 13c.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with tell tales

tell tales

Divulge secrets, as in Don't trust him; he's apt to tell tales. This expression was first recorded about 1350. A variant, tell tales out of school, first recorded in 1530, presumably alluded to schoolchildren gossiping but was soon broadened to revealing secret or private information. Both may be obsolescent.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.