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 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for tell-tale

Contemporary Examples of tell-tale

Historical Examples of tell-tale

  • Then he added, impatiently: "Come, waste no words; strip off that tell-tale coat."

    A Son of Hagar

    Sir Hall Caine

  • Eileen sighed and turned her head away to hide a tell-tale tear.

  • She paused, and then there slipped out, in lower tone, a tell-tale "Much."

    Half a Hero

    Anthony Hope

  • If she once gets the reputation of 'tell-tale' she's done for.

  • That would account for the absence of any tell-tale marks on the bed-clothes.

    The Shrieking Pit

    Arthur J. Rees

British Dictionary definitions for tell-tale



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
  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-tale


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