- Tell is defined as to communicate in words.
An example of to tell is to provide someone with information about a crime scene.
This woman tells a police officer what she knows.
transitive verbtold, telling
- to enumerate; count; reckon: to tell time
- to give an account of (a story, etc.) in speech or writing
- to express in words; utter; say: to tell the truth
- to report; announce; publish
- to reveal; disclose; make known: a smile that told her joy
- to recognize; distinguish; discriminate: unable to tell one from the other
- to decide; know: one can't tell what will happen
- to let know; inform; acquaint: tell me about the game
- to request; direct; order; command: tell him to leave
- to state emphatically to: it's there, I tell you
Origin of tellMiddle English tellen ; from Old English tellan, literally , to calculate, reckon ; from Germanic an unverified form taljan from source German zahl, number: see tale
- to give an account or description (of something)
- to give evidence or be an indication (of something)
- to carry tales; reveal secrets: to kiss and tell
- to produce a result; be effective; have a marked effect: efforts that are beginning to tell
- to count (persons, etc.) and separate them from the total number
- Informal to rebuke severely
- to have a marked, usually adverse, effect on
- Informal to inform against or gossip about
Origin of tellArabic tall, a mound
verbtold told , tell·ing, tells
- a. To communicate by speech or writing; express with words: She told him that the store was closed. Tell me the truth.b. To give a detailed account of; narrate: told what happened; told us a story.c. To notify (someone) of something; inform: He told us of his dream to sail around the world.d. To make known; disclose or reveal: tell a secret; tell fortunes.e. To inform (someone) positively; assure: I tell you, the plan will work.f. To give instructions to; direct: told the customers to wait in line.
- To discover by observation; discern: We could tell that he was upset.
- To name or number one by one; count: telling one's blessings; 16 windows, all told.
- To relate a story or give an account of an event: The sailor told of having been adrift for days.
- To reveal something that is not supposed to be revealed, especially something that someone has done wrong: She promised not to tell on her friend.
- To have an effect or impact: In this game every move tells.
Origin of tellMiddle English tellen, from Old English tellan; see del-2 in Indo-European roots.
Origin of tellArabic tall; see tll in Semitic roots.
(third-person singular simple present tells, present participle telling, simple past and past participle told)
- To count, reckon, or enumerate.
- All told, there were over a dozen. Can you tell time on a clock? He had untold wealth.
- To narrate.
- I want to tell a story; I want to tell you a story.
- To convey by speech; to say.
- Finally, someone told him the truth. He seems to like to tell lies.
- To instruct or inform.
- Please tell me how to do it.
- To order; to direct, to say to someone.
- Tell him to go away.
- (intransitive) To discern, notice, identify or distinguish.
- Can you tell whether those flowers are real or silk, from this distance? No, there's no way to tell.
- To reveal.
- Time will tell what became of him.
- (intransitive) To be revealed.
- (intransitive) To have an effect, especially a noticeable one; to be apparent, to be demonstrated.
- Sir Gerald was moving slower; his wounds were beginning to tell.
- (to instruct or inform): ask
- A reflexive, often habitual behavior, especially one occurring in a context that often features attempts at deception by persons under psychological stress (such as a poker game or police interrogation), that reveals information that the person exhibiting the behavior is attempting to withhold.
- That which is told; tale; account.
- (Internet) A private message to an individual in a chat room; a whisper.
From Middle English tellen (“to count, tell”), from Old English tellan (“to count, tell”), from Proto-Germanic *taljaną, *talzijaną (“to count, enumerate”), from Proto-Germanic *talą, *talǭ (“number, counting”), from Proto-Indo-European *dol- (“calculation, fraud”). Cognate with English tally (“to count”), West Frisian telle (“to count”), West Frisian fertelle (“to tell, narrate”), Dutch tellen (“to count”), Low German tellen (“to count”) and förtellen (“to tell, narrate”), Old High German zellen (German zählen, “to count”), German erzählen (“to tell, recount”), Old Norse telja (Faroese telja, “to count, tell”). More at tale.
- (archaeology) A mound, originally in the Middle East, over or consisting of the ruins of ancient settlements.
From Arabic تل (tall, “hill, elevation”), from Proto-Semitic *tall- (“hill”).