[ tel-ing ]
/ ˈtɛl ɪŋ /


having force or effect; effective; striking: a telling blow.
revealing; indicative of much otherwise unnoticed: a telling analysis of motivation in business.

Nearby words

  1. telic,
  2. telidon,
  3. teliospore,
  4. telium,
  5. telkom,
  6. tell a thing or two,
  7. tell apart,
  8. tell el amarna,
  9. tell it like it is,
  10. tell it to the marines

Origin of telling

First recorded in 1850–55; tell1 + -ing2

Related formstell·ing·ly, adverbun·tell·ing, adjective


[ tel ]
/ tɛl /

verb (used with object), told, tell·ing.

verb (used without object), told, tell·ing.

Verb Phrases

tell off,
  1. to separate from the whole and assign to a particular duty.
  2. rebuke severely; scold: It was about time that someone told him off.
tell on, to tattle on (someone).

Origin of tell

before 900; Middle English tellen, Old English tellan to relate, count; cognate with Dutch tellen to reckon, count, Old Norse telja to count, say, Old High German zellēn; akin to tale Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for telling

British Dictionary definitions for telling


/ (ˈtɛlɪŋ) /


having a marked effect or impacta telling blow
revealinga telling smile
Derived Formstellingly, adverb


/ (tɛl) /


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


/ (tɛl) /

verb tells, telling or told

Derived Formstellable, adjective

Word Origin for tell

Old English tellan; related to Old Saxon tellian, Old High German zellen to tell, count, Old Norse telja


/ (tɛl) /


a large mound resulting from the accumulation of rubbish on a long-settled site, esp one with mudbrick buildings, particularly in the Middle East

Word Origin for tell

C19: from Arabic tall

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 telling
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with telling


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

also see:

  • 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.