Telltale definition

tĕltāl
Any of various devices for indicating or recording information; indicator.
  • A row of dangling ropes, etc. hung over a railroad track to warn trainmen, riding on top of a car, of an approaching low bridge, tunnel, etc.
  • A ribbon, piece of yarn, etc. attached to a sail, shroud, etc. on a sailboat to indicate wind direction.
  • A time clock.
  • A gauge on a pipe organ showing the air pressure.
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One who informs on another; a talebearer.
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Something that indicates or reveals information; a sign.
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Any of various devices that indicate or register information, especially:
  • A time clock.
  • (nautical) One of the brightly colored lengths of yarn or ribbon attached to the shrouds, stays, or sails of a sailboat, serving to indicate wind direction relative to the boat's motion.
  • A row of strips hung above a railroad track to warn a passing train of low clearance ahead.
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(sports) A resonant metal strip, 24 or 30 inches (61 or 76 centimeters) high, across the bottom of the front wall of a racquets or squash court above which the ball must be hit.
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A person who tells secrets or informs; talebearer; tattler.
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An outward indication of something secret.
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Revealing or indicating that which is hidden or meant to be secret.

The telltale smell of alcohol on his breath.

adjective
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One who divulges private information with intent to hurt others.
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(chiefly US, slang) Tattletale; squealer.
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Something that serves to reveal something else.

The telltale was the lipstick on his shirt collar.

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(music) A movable piece of ivory, lead, or other material, connected to the bellows of an organ, whose position indicates when the wind is exhausted.
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(nautical) A length of yarn or ribbon attached to a sail or shroud etc to indicate the direction of the flow of the air relative to the boat.
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(nautical) A mechanical attachment to the steering wheel, which, in the absence of a tiller, shows the position of the helm.
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(nautical) A compass in the cabin of a vessel, usually placed where the captain can see it at all hours, and thus inform himself of the vessel's course.
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(engineering) A machine or contrivance for indicating or recording something, particularly for keeping a check upon employees (factory hands, watchmen, drivers, etc.) by revealing to their employers what they have done or omitted.
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A bird, the tattler.
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Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster's Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
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Revealing something not intended to be known.

His eye was blinking, a telltale signal that he was lying.

He blushed when he approached, a telltale sign that he was happy to see him.

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Alternative spelling of telltale.
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Other Word Forms

Noun

Singular:
telltale
Plural:
telltales

Origin of telltale

  • From Old English (circa 1550)

    From Wiktionary