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) 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.
- (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.
- Bible, Genesis xii. 18
- Why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife?
- (transitive) To order; to direct, to say to someone.
- Tell him to go away.
- (Can we date this quote?) Charles Dickens
- He told her not to be frightened.
- 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.
- 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.
- (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.
- 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.
- (enumerate): 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.
- (Internet) A private message to an individual in a chat room; a whisper.
tell (plural tells)
- (archaeology) A mound, originally in the Middle East, over or consisting of the ruins of ancient settlements.
- imperative of