English edit

Etymology edit

From Old English unteald (not counted or reckoned), from tellan (count, relate, tell).

Pronunciation edit

Adjective edit

untold (not comparable)

  1. Not told; not related; not revealed; secret.
    • 2023 June 28, Christian Wolmar, “The railway's crucial role in the Normandy invasion”, in RAIL, number 986, page 45:
      As Royal Engineers General Mungo Melvin, who has been helping with the draft, put it: "This is the last untold story of the Normandy Invasion."
  2. Not numbered or counted.
    • 2010 January 14, Simon Romero, “Haiti Lies in Ruins; Grim Search for Untold Dead”, in The New York Times[1]:
      Huge swaths of Port-au-Prince lay in ruins, and thousands of people were feared dead in the rubble.
    • 2012, James Lambert, “Beyond Hobson-Jobson: A new lexicography for Indian English”, in World Englishes[2], page 301:
      More importantly, there is an untold multitude of Indian English terms that have never been given lexicographical treatment in any dictionary.
  3. (literary) Not able to be counted, measured, told, expressed in words, or described; extremely large in scale, number, quantity, suffering, damage, etc.; uncountable, unmeasurable, immeasurable, indescribable, inexpressible.
    • 1864 November 6, “THE WAR DEMOCRACY.; Immense Meeting at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. A LARGE AND FASHIONABLE AUDIENCE. A Masterly Speech by Major-Gen. Sickles. MAJ.-GEN. DANIEL E. SICKLES.”, in The New York Times[3], →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 14 September 2023, page 1‎[4]:
      The South propose to found a Government on servile labor, not as it originally was an accident and an incident, but as the degrading and disgraceful foundation of a Government, and to such a Government as this the Chicago platform offer an armistice, and ask the American men to beg to it for peace. He closed with an appeal to all -- to those at the loom and at the plow, in the army and in the navy, in the workshop and in the counting room to spurn forever from their recognition and their confidence the base men who would not only degrade and disgrace the party they pretend to represent, but would also bring untold disgrace and dishonor upon our country and our flag.
    • 1975 March 13 [1975 March 7], “Chief of Staff of PLA Air Unit Dies in Training Exercise”, in Daily Report: People's Republic of China[5], volume I, number 50, Foreign Broadcast Information Service, →ISSN, →OCLC, page E 6[6]:
      Shih Hung-pi was born a pauper at a poor household in Suichung County, Liaoning. He suffered untold misery in the old society. Then he joined the PLA.

Usage notes edit

The "inexpressible" sense of untold is pragmatic; it is determined only by context. This use is common in Lovecraftian and Gothic Horror genres, where stories focus mainly on incomprehensible or indescribable things, and so are rendered inexpressible by their characters. Typically, these characters will speak of untold "treasures" or "suffering", or other things of indefinite but immense magnitude.