[ tel-teyl ]
/ ˈtɛlˌteɪl /



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

Nearby words

  1. tellin,
  2. telling,
  3. telling-off,
  4. tellingly,
  5. telloh,
  6. tellurate,
  7. tellurian,
  8. telluric,
  9. telluric acid,
  10. telluride

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 telltale

British Dictionary definitions for telltale


/ (ˈtɛlˌteɪl) /


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 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