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tell Meaning, Definition & Usage

  1. noun a Swiss patriot who lived in the early 14th century and who was renowned for his skill as an archer; according to legend an Austrian governor compelled him to shoot an apple from his son's head with his crossbow (which he did successfully without mishap)
    William Tell.
  2. verb express in words
    state; say.
    • He said that he wanted to marry her
    • tell me what is bothering you
    • state your opinion
    • state your name
  3. verb let something be known
    • Tell them that you will be late
  4. verb narrate or give a detailed account of
    recite; narrate; recount.
    • Tell what happened
    • The father told a story to his child
  5. verb give instructions to or direct somebody to do something with authority
    say; enjoin; order.
    • I said to him to go home
    • She ordered him to do the shopping
    • The mother told the child to get dressed
  6. verb discern or comprehend
    • He could tell that she was unhappy
  7. verb inform positively and with certainty and confidence
    • I tell you that man is a crook!
  8. verb give evidence
    • he was telling on all his former colleague
  9. verb mark as different
    secernate; severalise; separate; severalize; tell apart; differentiate; distinguish; secern.
    • We distinguish several kinds of maple

Tell transitive verb
AS. tellan, from talu tale, number, speech; akin to D. tellen to count, G. zählen, OHG. zellen to count, tell, say, Icel. telja, Dan. tale to speak, tælle to count. See Tale that which is told.
imperfect & past participle Told ; present participle & verbal noun Telling
  1. To mention one by one, or piece by piece; to recount; to enumerate; to reckon; to number; to count; as, to tell money. "An heap of coin he told." Spenser.
    He telleth the number of the stars. Ps. cxlvii. 4.
    Tell the joints of the body. Jer. Taylor.
  2. To utter or recite in detail; to give an account of; to narrate.
    Of which I shall tell all the array. Chaucer.
    And not a man appears to tell their fate. Pope.
  3. To make known; to publish; to disclose; to divulge.
    Why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife? Gen. xii. 18.
  4. To give instruction to; to make report to; to acquaint; to teach; to inform.
    A secret pilgrimage, That you to-day promised to tell me of? Shak.
  5. To order; to request; to command.
    He told her not to be frightened. Dickens.
  6. To discern so as to report; to ascertain by observing; to find out; to discover; as, I can not tell where one color ends and the other begins.
  7. To make account of; to regard; to reckon; to value; to estimate. Obs.
    I ne told no dainity of her love. Chaucer.
    Tell, though equivalent in some respect to speak and say, has not always the same application. We say, to tell truth or falsehood, to tell a number, to tell the reasons, to tell something or nothing; but we never say, to tell a speech, discourse, or oration, or to tell an argument or a lesson. It is much used in commands; as, tell me the whole story; tell me all you know. Syn. -- To communicate; impart; reveal; disclose; inform; acquaint; report; repeat; rehearse; recite.
Tell intransitive verb
  1. To give an account; to make report.
    That I may publish with the voice of thankgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works. Ps. xxvi. 7.
  2. To take effect; to produce a marked effect; as, every shot tells; every expression tells.
    Lest they should tell on us, saying, So did David. 1 Sam. xxvii. 11.
Tell noun
  1. That which is told; tale; account. R.
    I am at the end of my tell. Walpole.
Tell noun
  1. A hill or mound. W. M. Thomson.

Webster 1913