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 Saterland Frisian tälle (“to say; tell”), West Frisian telle (“to count”), West Frisian fertelle (“to tell, narrate”), Dutch tellen (“to count”), Low German tellen (“to count”), German zählen, Faroese telja. More at tale.
- (transitive, archaic outside of idioms) To count, reckon, or enumerate.
- 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.
- (transitive) To narrate.
- I want to tell a story; I want to tell you a story.
- (transitive) To convey by speech; to say.
- Finally, someone told him the truth. He seems to like to tell lies.
- 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, chapter 4, in Mr. Pratt's Patients:
- I told him about everything I could think of; and what I couldn't think of he did. He asked about six questions during my yarn, but every question had a point to it. At the end he bowed and thanked me once more. As a thanker he was main-truck high; I never see anybody so polite.
- (transitive) To instruct or inform.
- Please tell me how to do it.
- (transitive) To order; to direct, to say to someone.
- Tell him to go away.
- 1909, H. G. Wells, Ann Veronica
- She said she hoped she had not distressed him by the course she had felt obliged to take, and he told her not to be a fool.
- 2012 October 25, John Noble Wilford, “Neil Armstrong, First Man on the Moon, Dies at 82”, in New York Times:
- 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.
- (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.
- I can tell you're upset.
- 1910, Emerson Hough, chapter I, in The Purchase Price: Or The Cause of Compromise, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, OCLC 639762314:
- 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.
- (transitive) 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.
- 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.
- 1960 April, Cecil J. Allen, “Locomotive Running Past and Present”, in Trains Illustrated, page 212:
- [...] the 4 miles at 1 in 180 up to Sanquhar were mounted with no greater fall in speed than from 65 to 59 m.p.h., after which, possibly as a result of easing the engine or because the strain on steam supply was beginning to tell, the final 3½ miles up at 1 in 200 up to milepost 59½ were surmounted at a minimum of 49½ m.p.h.
- 2011 September 18, Ben Dirs, “Rugby World Cup 2011: England 41-10 Georgia”, in BBC Sport:
- But England's superior fitness told in the second half, with Delon Armitage, Manu Tuilagi and Chris Ashton (two) going over for tries to secure a bonus-point win.
- (transitive) To use (beads or similar objects) as an aid to prayer.
- (intransitive, childish) To inform someone in authority about a wrongdoing.
- I saw you steal those sweets! I'm going to tell!
- (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.
- In dialects, other past tense forms (besides told) may be found, including tald/tauld (Scotland), tawld (Devonshire), teld (Yorkshire, Devonshire), telled (Northern England, Scotland, and in nonstandard speech generally), telt (Scotland, Geordie), tole (AAVE, Southern US, and some dialects of England), toll (AAVE), tolt (AAVE).
- In older forms of English, when the pronoun thou was in active use, and verbs used -est for distinct second-person singular indicative forms, the verb tell had the form tellest, and had toldest for its past tense.
- Similarly, when the ending -eth was in active use for third-person singular present indicative forms, the form telleth was used.
|present||I tell||we tell||I am telling||we are telling||I have told||we have told||I have been telling||we have been telling|
|you tell||you tell||you are telling||you are telling||you have told||you have told||you have been telling||you have been telling|
|he tells||they tell||he is telling||they are telling||he has told||they have told||he has been telling||they have been telling|
|past||I told||we told||I was telling||we were telling||I had told||we had told||I had been telling||we had been telling|
|you told||you told||you were telling||you were telling||you had told||you had told||you had been telling||you had been telling|
|he told||they told||he was telling||they were telling||he had told||they had told||he had been telling||they had been telling|
|future||I will tell||we will tell||I will be telling||we will be telling||I will have told||we will have told||I will have been telling||we will have been telling|
|you will tell||you will tell||you will be telling||you will be telling||you will have told||you will have told||you will have been telling||you will have been telling|
|he will tell||they will tell||he will be telling||they will be telling||he will have told||they will have told||he will have been telling||they will have been telling|
|conditional||I would tell||we would tell||I would be telling||we would be telling||I would have told||we would have told||I would have been telling||we would have been telling|
|you would tell||you would tell||you would be telling||you would be telling||you would have told||you would have told||you would have been telling||you would have been telling|
|he would tell||they would tell||he would be telling||they would be telling||he would have told||they would have told||he would have been telling||they would have been telling|
- (enumerate): count, number; see also Thesaurus:count
- (narrate): narrate, recount, relate
- (to instruct or inform): advise, apprise; See also Thesaurus:inform
- (reveal): disclose, make known; See also Thesaurus:divulge
- (inform someone in authority): grass up, snitch, tattle; See also Thesaurus:rat out
- (to instruct or inform): ask
- The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.
tell (plural tells)
- 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.
- (archaic) That which is told; a tale or account.
- April 4, 1743, Horace Walpole, letter to Sir Horace Mann
- I am at the end of my tell.
- April 4, 1743, Horace Walpole, letter to Sir Horace Mann
- (Internet) A private message to an individual in a chat room; a whisper.
tell (plural tells)
- (archaeology) A hill or mound, originally and especially in the Middle East, over or consisting of the ruins of ancient settlements.
- imperative of