telltale (plural telltales)

  1. One who divulges private information with intent to hurt others.
    Synonyms: blabbermouth, gossip, rumormonger, talebearer, Thesaurus:gossiper
    • 1596-97, William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act V, Scene i:
      No note at all of our being absence hence;
      Nor you, Lorenzo; Jessica, nor you.
      Your husband is at hand; I hear his trumpet:
      We are not tell-tales, madam; fear you not.
  2. (chiefly, US, slang) Tattletale; squealer.
  3. (figuratively) Something that serves to reveal something else.
    The telltale was the lipstick on his shirt collar.
    • It supplies many useful links and telltales.
  4. (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.
  5. (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.
  6. (nautical) A mechanical attachment to the steering wheel, which, in the absence of a tiller, shows the position of the helm.
  7. (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.
  8. (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.
  9. A bird, the tattler.
Related terms
  • tell tales
Translations Translations
  • Russian: я́беда
  • Spanish: soplón, soplona
Translations Translations
  • German: Fadensonde
  • Italian: mostravento
  • Spanish: grímpola
  • German: Kontrolleinrichtung
  • Russian: индика́тор


  1. Revealing something, especially 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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