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telltale

[tel-teyl]
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noun
  1. a person who heedlessly or maliciously reveals private or confidential matters; tattler; talebearer.
  2. a thing serving to reveal or disclose something.
  3. any of various indicating or registering devices, as a time clock.
  4. Music. a gauge on an organ for indicating the air pressure.
  5. an indicator showing the position of a ship's rudder.
  6. a row of strips hung over a track to warn train crew members on freight trains that a low bridge, tunnel, or the like is approaching.
  7. Yachting. (on a sailboat) a feather, string, or similar device, often attached to the port and starboard shrouds and to the backstay, to indicate the relative direction of the wind.
  8. Squash. a narrow piece of metal across the front wall of a court, parallel to and extending 17 inches (43.2 cm) above the base: a ball striking this is an out.
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adjective
  1. that reveals or betrays what is not intended to be known: a telltale blush.
  2. giving notice or warning of something, as a mechanical device.
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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. 2018

Examples from the Web for tell-tale

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • 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

telltale

noun
  1. a person who tells tales about others
    1. an outward indication of something concealed
    2. (as modifier)a telltale paw mark
  2. any of various indicators or recording devices used to monitor a process, machine, etc
  3. 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
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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

telltale

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

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper