Definition of tale in English:



  • 1A fictitious or true narrative or story, especially one that is imaginatively recounted.

    ‘a delightful children's tale’
    ‘tales of witches and warlocks’
    ‘she enjoyed hearing others tell their tales’
    • ‘Set in Edwardian London, the movie starts off with Wendy who narrates harrowing tales of swordplay and Captain Hook, who fears nothing but a ticking clock.’
    • ‘All the ethnic groups of Uganda have a rich oral tradition of tales, legends, stories, proverbs, and riddles.’
    • ‘Chloe of the Midnight Storytellers will amuse the guests by recounting tales from myth and legend, as well as adaptations of literary short stories.’
    • ‘Ghost stories, tales of the supernatural and horror films all scare us via confrontation with the unknown.’
    • ‘Some stories are much too good to be true, tales so full of emotion and pathos that they compel a journalist to step back and reconsider.’
    • ‘Elders, by means of recitation of stories, tales, and legends, were also significant teachers.’
    • ‘Like other Central Asian peoples, the Turkmens have a rich folklore tradition of epic stories, tales, and lyric poems.’
    • ‘Radio broadcasts and recordings of epic tales and local histories told by leading griots have helped transport this literature into the twenty-first century.’
    • ‘In traditional storytelling, trickster tales are often greeted with laughter.’
    • ‘Although the author offers up many intriguing story ingredients and historical tales, she lacks a central driving narrative.’
    • ‘While it is true that the Hogwarts tales are supposed to appeal to young readers, personnel at bookstalls say that there is no dearth of adult readers who cannot wait to see what Rowling has in store in the new book.’
    • ‘As a young boy, Andrew Roberts, the leading historian, thrilled to the tales in Our Island Story, and he's delighted that it is now being reprinted.’
    • ‘Like the myth of Hercules, the legend of Samson is a tale recounted in many cultures.’
    • ‘Improbable tales of true love overcoming desperate odds are a hallmark of Bollywood, the Indian film genre watched by millions worldwide.’
    • ‘He can also recount tales of his solo effort through the awesome Atlas mountains in Morocco in addition to his conquering the magnificent but deadly Picos De Europa in North West Spain.’
    • ‘The authors of classics like Haunted Heartland have returned with a brand new collection of ghost stories and haunted tales from all across the country.’
    • ‘New research, published yesterday, suggests children's love of contemporary fiction means classic tales are being left on the shelves.’
    • ‘After the First World War public taste shifted away from the short story to the novel-length tale.’
    • ‘They carry with them proof of their amazing visits, and can spend much time narrating tales about every photograph and testimonial they carry with them.’
    • ‘Mary and Tom Coogan's story is an inspirational tale of a true and deep love that conquered tragedy.’
    story, short story, narrative, anecdote, report, account, record, history
    rumour, gossip, hearsay, slander, talk, allegation, tittle-tattle, libel, story
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A lie.
      • ‘The closeness of being in a packed car allows the trio the chance to swap stories and the lads to fabricate tales of bravado.’
      • ‘It was thought that children could not possibly fabricate such tales.’
      • ‘He buys them a drink and tells them his sad story - he has been writing home fictitious tales of his exploits in the corps, and now cannot go home to face the lie.’
      • ‘He even published dozens of fabricated tales, often using pseudonyms.’
      • ‘Many of these accounts were embellished, and some of the more lurid tales were pure fabrications.’
      • ‘The book is full of invented tales and wild exaggerations of documented events.’
      • ‘Slanderous tales about winners are fabricated by losers.’
      lie, fib, falsehood, story, untruth, fabrication, fiction, piece of fiction, trumped-up story, fake news, alternative fact
      View synonyms
  • 2archaic A number or total.

    ‘an exact tale of the dead bodies’
    • ‘These great and strong lords and knights have come to see what work a man may do without dying: if we are to have yet more days added to our year's tale of lords' labour, then are we lost without remedy.’
    • ‘Though, forsooth, little matter was it to any man there whether Turk or Magyar was their over-lord, since to one master or another they had to pay the due tale of labouring days in the year, and hard was the livelihood that they earned for themselves on the days when they worked for themselves and their wives and children.’


  • a tale of a tub

    • archaic An apocryphal story.

  • tell tales

    • Gossip about or reveal another person's secrets or wrongdoings.

      ‘she sparked a family row after telling tales about her mother on a TV show’
      • ‘Indeed, people love to gossip and to tell tales.’
      • ‘Robert and Kitty are deputizing Isaac to sling some mud at the man telling tales on Robert, and stop the story from spreading.’
      inform, inform against, inform on, act as an informer, tell tales, tell tales on, sneak, sneak on, report, give away, be disloyal, be disloyal to, sell out, stab in the back
      View synonyms


Old English talu ‘telling, something told’, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch taal ‘speech’ and German Zahl ‘number’, also to tell. tale (sense 2) is probably from Old Norse.