see also: Tell
  • (British, America) enPR: tĕl, IPA: /tɛl/, /tɛɫ/

tell (tells, present participle telling; past and past participle told)

  1. (transitive, archaic outside of idioms) To count, reckon, or enumerate.
    All told, there were over a dozen.  Can you tell time on a clock?  He had untold wealth.
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, II.vii:
      And in his lap a masse of coyne he told, / And turned vpsidowne, to feede his eye / A couetous desire with his huge threasury.
    • 1875, Hugh MacMillan, The Sunday Magazine:
      Only He who made them can tell the number of the stars, and mark the place of each in the order of the one great dominant spiral.
  2. (transitive) To narrate.
    I want to tell a story;  I want to tell you a story.
    • 2016, [ VOA Learning English] (public domain)
      Tell her you’re here.
  3. (transitive) To convey by speech; to say.
    Finally, someone told him the truth.  He seems to like to tell lies.
  4. (transitive) To instruct or inform.
    Please tell me how to do it.
    • Bible, Book of Genesis xii. 18
      Why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife?
  5. (transitive) To order; to direct, to say to someone.
    Tell him to go away.
    • He told her not to be frightened.
      Stability was restored, but once the re-entry propulsion was activated, the crew was told to prepare to come home before the end of their only day in orbit.
  6. (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.
    • 1910, Emerson Hough, chapter I, in The Purchase Price: Or The Cause of Compromise, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, OCLC 639762314 ↗, page 0105 ↗:
      Captain Edward Carlisle, soldier as he was, martinet as he was, felt a curious sensation of helplessness seize upon him as he met her steady gaze, her alluring smile; he could not tell what this prisoner might do.
  7. (transitive) To reveal.
    Time will tell what became of him.
  8. (intransitive) To be revealed.
    • 1990, Stephen Coonts, Under Siege, 1991 Pocket Books edition, ISBN 0671742949, p.409:
      Cherry looks old, Mergenthaler told himself. His age is telling. Querulous — that's the word. He's become a whining, querulous old man absorbed with trivialities.
  9. (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.
    • 1859 John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
      Opinion ought [… to give] merited honour to every one, whatever opinion he may hold […] keeping nothing back which tells, or can be supposed to tell, in their favour.
  10. (transitive) To use beads or similar objects as an aid to prayer.
  11. (intransitive, childish) To inform someone in authority about a wrongdoing.
    I saw you steal those sweets! I'm going to tell!
  12. (authorship, intransitive) To reveal information in prose through outright expository statement -- contrasted with show
    Maria rewrote the section of her novel that talked about Meg and Sage's friendship to have less telling and more showing.
Synonyms Antonyms
  • (to instruct or inform) ask
Translations Translations Translations Translations Noun

tell (plural tells)

  1. 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.
  2. (archaic) That which is told; a tale or account.
    • I am at the end of my tell.
  3. (internet) A private message to an individual in a chat room; a whisper.

tell (plural tells)

  1. (archaeology) A hill or mound, originally and especially in the Middle East, over or consisting of the ruins of ancient settlements.

Proper noun
  1. Surname

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