Main definitions of tell in English

: tell1tell2

tell1

verb

  • 1reporting verb Communicate information to someone in spoken or written words.

    with object and clause ‘I told her you were coming’
    with object and direct speech ‘‘We have nothing in common,’ she told him’
    with object ‘he's telling the truth’
    with two objects ‘we must be told the facts’
    • ‘The couple told of the whispering campaign in their community accusing them of being in some way responsible.’
    • ‘He lost both his job and later his life for his troubles, for speaking out and telling the truth.’
    • ‘The inquest was told yesterday that he complained of feeling " queasy " minutes before the tragic incident.’
    • ‘Eyewitnesses told of the horror of being crushed, of falling and then having other people falling on top of them.’
    • ‘Hearing her friends tell her how lucky she was to have someone so devoted only made it worse.’
    • ‘Dad was still telling me how proud he was of me.’
    • ‘Sources told us earlier today that the campaign would widen and apparently it has.’
    • ‘She had no doubt been told of the historic reasons why the lords feel they must rule us.’
    • ‘Her mother had told her earlier that the guests would be arriving around 4.’
    • ‘Employees told of massive delays and journeys of up to eight hours to London from York as the railways were in crisis.’
    • ‘The owner of the chemist's shop where the armed robbery took place told of his shock and horror at the incident.’
    • ‘Neighbours have spoken of their shock at the incident and told of a quiet woman who kept herself to herself.’
    • ‘Last night, her shocked brother told of how he made a desperate bid to save her.’
    • ‘They also told of how their son had been deeply affected by the abduction.’
    • ‘Her mother tells her how wonderful everything is in the city.’
    • ‘That's because he speaks his mind and tells the truth.’
    • ‘One doctor told the conference he sees 50 patients a day.’
    • ‘A North Yorkshire farmer today told of his family's despair as foot and mouth claimed his flock of sheep.’
    • ‘In other words, telling the plain truth probably would have been sufficient.’
    • ‘Another doctor told the inquest the symptoms could have been caused by anxiety and depression.’
    inform, let know, notify, apprise, make aware, mention something to, acquaint with, advise, put in the picture, brief, fill in, break the news to
    speak, utter, say, voice, state, declare
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1with object and infinitive Order or advise someone to do something.
      ‘tell him to go away’
      • ‘The jury normally receives an order from the court telling it to accept the laws as they are.’
      • ‘Cancer cells get these nutrients by sending out a complex set of chemical instructions telling the body to produce new blood vessels to feed it.’
      • ‘They told them to dismount and then tied them up and ordered them into the American vehicle.’
      • ‘People are too intelligent for us to direct their minds and tell them go this way or that way.’
      • ‘With a standing order, you tell your bank to pay a fixed sum at a regular interval to an organisation or individual.’
      • ‘The same lawyers told him to bring charges to a civil court and the sports court of arbitrage.’
      • ‘But the pair were unable to attend after being told to stay in hospital.’
      • ‘She knew she had been told to stay quiet, but she couldn't.’
      instruct, order, give orders, command, direct, charge, enjoin, call on, require
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2with object Relate (a story)
      ‘he tried to make the children laugh by telling jokes’
      with two objects ‘tell me the story again’
      • ‘They do that by telling great stories and tales from wherever they are.’
      • ‘The old girls sit for hours under a mango tree, threading and weaving, gossiping and telling stories.’
      • ‘We laughed too, even though she had not finished telling her story.’
      • ‘She said: " Spike was a regular here and he was always telling jokes.’
      • ‘I once told this tale to a pal.’
      • ‘A schoolteacher of mine once told this tale to the entire class.’
      • ‘Talking about bears leads him to tell an amazing bear story, which becomes our film with Harris narrating as he tells the story.’
      • ‘She turns to a mysterious woman named Mary who tells exotic tales and teaches Tessa to read.’
      • ‘She ate heartily as she told her tale in full and all about the quest she had set for herself.’
      • ‘Once upon a time in faraway places, stories were told around campfires and hearths among family and friends.’
      • ‘He tries to tell the story in a way that relates to the modern audience.’
      • ‘And every week he has three of us who will be on the broadcast telling a story.’
      • ‘She tells stories, laughs easily and explains processes and ideas clearly.’
      • ‘To illustrate, she tells the story of the night watchman given to practical jokes.’
      • ‘The central event, told in flashback, is very powerfully and beautifully expressed.’
      • ‘It simply tells the tale of one man who made his feelings very publicly known on the intentions and desires of his own life, such as it was.’
      • ‘Daddy does all kinds of voices when he tells stories and he always makes me laugh.’
      • ‘He was telling stories and jokes and had the attention of us all as he was pretty good at it.’
      • ‘Johns' blue eyes brighten as he tells this story, and he laughs.’
      • ‘It tells the tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and their quest for the Holy Grail.’
      • ‘She tells a harrowing tale of how the owners waited until it was too late.’
      • ‘She remembered her father telling her tales of pirates marooning their captains and awful things of that sort.’
      • ‘He tells a tale of a fellow senator who served with him in the early 1990s.’
      • ‘Readers should remember this is an American story, told from the American perspective.’
      • ‘Ordinary sailors and marines will also be telling their own stories, speaking to the audience from the naval vessels.’
      • ‘The autobiographical narrator tells her story not because of her ‘mundane life’ but in spite of it.’
      • ‘The way he tells his stories and jokes is true to life everywhere.’
      • ‘The tale is told in flashback for no apparent reason other than to vary the storytelling approach.’
      • ‘Most important is to find the voice with which to tell the story.’
      • ‘For me, it was just telling a story and relating the adventures and hardships while on Everest.’
      • ‘Global stars they may be, but they created a warm, homely atmosphere, joking and telling stories about their family.’
      • ‘Another way of using language to cheer someone up is by telling stories and jokes.’
      • ‘They sat at the table drinking the wine, telling stories and making jokes about General Hackman.’
      • ‘These guys are so funny and laid back on stage, making jokes, telling stories, having a good time.’
      • ‘We raced the rooftops to the very edge of it where we saw a group of soldiers merrily laughing and telling stories around the fire.’
      • ‘The film is told entirely in flashback, from the perspectives of our three heroes.’
      • ‘Anthony seemed to be telling a joke or story of some sort, but it was obvious that Nick's attention was elsewhere.’
      • ‘He is so good at telling Andersen's tales that one wishes to hear more.’
      • ‘Tales of epic heroes were traditionally told around campfires just before the battle.’
      • ‘It would be a great shame if teenage boys, in whose voice the story is told, were deterred by the girl's name in the title.’
    3. 1.3with object Reveal (information) to someone in a non-verbal way.
      ‘the figures tell a different story’
      with two objects ‘the smile on her face told him everything’
      • ‘The most telling fact is that I had a terrible job getting the book back from my colleagues to review.’
      • ‘Sadly, the reality tells a different, a gloomier kind of story.’
      • ‘Although intricate in their themes, each picture tells a thousand different stories while remaining beautifully simple.’
      • ‘Figures tell part of the story but are not the sole reason for Manly's collapse.’
      • ‘Lauren relates her story in a simple time sequence and gives telling details which make the narration gripping.’
      • ‘With all the discussion about the fisheries issue, he said one telling detail is being left out.’
      • ‘But the body of his report tells a different story.’
      • ‘Each movement of his body tells the story described by song.’
      • ‘However, the most telling evidence of its enduring value is that it is still in print three decades later.’
      • ‘But closer examination of the figures tells a different story.’
      • ‘Each painting tells a story and relates back to Stadium Australia and the workers.’
      • ‘While headlines screamed of a terrifying rise in youth crime, Wood said the figures told a different story.’
      • ‘However, a more telling statistic would be loss and damage rate per 1,000 weapons passes.’
      • ‘The evidence of the accused tells an entirely different story, in that he says he did not arrange the marriage.’
      • ‘Within families a lot happens on the periphery and the most telling details are often seen out of the corner of one's eye.’
      reveal, show, be evidence of, give evidence of, disclose, indicate, convey, signify
      View synonyms
    4. 1.4no object Divulge confidential or private information.
      ‘promise you won't tell’
      • ‘Please don't tell, because I don't want to lose readers.’
      • ‘And if Alan has whispered any secrets, she's not telling!’
      give the game away, talk, tell tales, open one's mouth, tattle
      View synonyms
    5. 1.5tell oninformal no object Inform someone of the misdemeanours of.
      ‘friends don't tell on each other’
      • ‘The minute someone blabs, it's the fault of whoever broke the silence and told on Matt.’
      • ‘And then you can send off vindictive messages to the spammers, telling them you told on them.’
      • ‘‘There are many cases where students have been told they'll be kicked out if they don't tell on their friends,’ says Manfred.’
      • ‘Luckily for both of us, Tanya was not in the room at the time so she would never know about any of what happened because I knew that none of my friends were going to tell on me.’
      • ‘They had people who told on their neighbours, and this is going to happen here too, you just wait and see.’
      inform against, inform on, tell tales on, give away, denounce, sell out, stab someone in the back
      View synonyms
  • 2with clause Decide or determine correctly or with certainty.

    ‘you can tell they're in love’
    ‘I couldn't tell if he believed me’
    • ‘It is perfect in every way, and I can tell that both my grandmother and my aunt agree.’
    • ‘I can tell that this is going to be one of those long-winded, rambling posts about nothing at all.’
    • ‘Nobody can tell, but they will certainly have their work cut out for them.’
    • ‘The muscle in his jaw clenches, and you can tell he's trying hard not to start crying.’
    • ‘I can tell that she's been wanting to say this for a while, but that doesn't make me want to hear it any more.’
    • ‘My friends have tried to be nice but I can tell that they all think we are going to break up eventually.’
    • ‘I can tell that she knows something is not quite right about the scenario she walked in on.’
    • ‘Although he's a cool, controlled character, one can tell that Scott is a little hurt by this.’
    • ‘As the music swells to a triumphant brass climax, I can tell that victory is within my grasp.’
    • ‘Talking to people in the area about it, one can tell that they are all very proud of their Medical Centre.’
    • ‘I look at her eyes in her own rear-view mirror and I can tell that she is laughing at me.’
    • ‘I can tell that he loves what he does, that all his dreams are busy coming true.’
    • ‘You can tell that they're starting to like you, that they want to trust you.’
    • ‘I can tell that they imagine that ideal job in banking is lying just around the next corner.’
    • ‘The atmosphere is what makes it such a special place and you can tell that patients and staff alike love being here.’
    • ‘There is an awkward silence and I can tell that they are wondering if I heard something that I shouldn't.’
    • ‘From first impressions you can tell that this is a bike that has been designed with a true passion for the sport it was intended.’
    • ‘You look at one of my documents on a screen, and hopefully you can tell that it's been crafted to make you want to read it.’
    • ‘From the way he's smiling, I can tell that he hasn't smiled in a long time.’
    • ‘She can tell that for once Jason is surprised and she decides that that is a good thing.’
    ascertain, decide, determine, work out, make out, deduce, discern, perceive, see, identify, recognize, understand, comprehend
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1with object and adverbial Perceive (the difference between one person or thing and another)
      ‘I can't tell the difference between margarine and butter’
      • ‘Some say they can't tell the difference between two teams when they are on the other wing!’
      • ‘Personally, I can't tell the difference between diamonds and bits of clear broken glass!’
      • ‘It just can't tell the difference between its narrowband and broadband users.’
      • ‘The company is in big trouble if their commissioning editors can't tell the difference between the two.’
      • ‘He can't tell the difference between the truth and what his lawyer is telling him.’
      • ‘He's the only person at the bar who can't tell the difference between beer and water.’
      • ‘I'll wager she can't tell the difference between a Klieg light and sunlight.’
      • ‘The bomb may be smart, but it can't tell the difference between a bunker and a school.’
      distinguish, differentiate, tell apart, discriminate
      View synonyms
  • 3no object (of an experience or period of time) have a noticeable, typically harmful, effect on someone.

    ‘the strain of supporting the family was beginning to tell on him’
    • ‘The strain is beginning to tell on her.’
    • ‘The pressure told on both sets of players as the game got bogged down in a midfield melee with precious little invention from the teams.’
    • ‘We just did six gigs in seven days so it's told on him a bit.’
    • ‘Confinement and want of fresh air was beginning to tell on her health and spirits.’
    take its toll on, leave its mark on, have an adverse effect on, affect
    View synonyms
    1. 3.1 (of a particular factor) play a part in the success or otherwise of someone or something.
      ‘lack of fitness told against him on his first run of the season’
      • ‘Five pit stops against the winner's two was what told against the other two pilots.’
      • ‘His personal failings also seem to have increased the strain and told against him.’
      • ‘I believe one of them spoke of how her size had told against her when auditioning, even though her voice had been quite acceptable.’
  • 4archaic Count (the members of a group)

    ‘the shepherd had told all his sheep’
    • ‘He told the number of girls and officers standing in a line.’
    • ‘He told the number of school that they had established, and how they obtained their scholars.’
    calculation, enumeration, computation, reckoning, counting, telling, tally, tallying, totting up
    keep a tally of, keep a count of, keep a record of
    View synonyms

noun

  • (especially in poker) an unconscious action that is thought to betray an attempted deception.

    • ‘The secret interpretation of tells is not unique to this century.’
    • ‘This book teaches you how to interpret tells, such as subtle shrugs, sighs, shaky hands, eye contact and much, much more.’
    • ‘Also, experienced pros will give out false tells to fool players.’
    • ‘Authentic tells are unbeknownst to the player and are unconscious.’
    • ‘But I think you could waste a poker lifetime looking for tells like those.’

Phrases

  • as far as one can tell

    • Judging from the available information.

      ‘the work will take about six weeks, as far as I can tell’
      • ‘How is this military campaign, as far as you can tell, moving along?’
      • ‘Well, does he understand, as far as you could tell, what kind of trouble he potentially is in unless he changes some of his positions?’
      • ‘What is this lawsuit, as far as you can tell, really about?’
      • ‘And so, what's the basic solution, as far as you can tell?’
      • ‘Are any other staffers of the United States Senate or Congress involved, as far as you can tell?’
      • ‘The inside of the house, as far as you could tell, was dark; empty.’
      • ‘So as far as you could tell, do you think the rumours of police infiltrating the protests to provoke violence were largely true?’
      • ‘Film festival programmers, as far as one can tell, assiduously do their work.’
      • ‘She was scarcely half his age, but the marriage was, as far as one can tell, a happy one.’
      • ‘Even fossilized bacteria, as far as one can tell, are the same as bacteria today.’
  • I tell you (or I can tell you)

    • Used to emphasize a statement.

      ‘that took me by surprise, I can tell you!’
      • ‘Maybe it's just the first signs of drought, but it's all very unnatural, I tell you.’
      • ‘Can I tell you, though, what else we saw were people who were on the verge of dying.’
      • ‘I danced with this young girl and, I tell you, she had more attitude than Naomi.’
      • ‘Although I tell you, I am so very much not at my swiftest after I've been asleep for a couple of hours.’
      • ‘I wouldn't drink that the whole night, I tell you - it's going to give you a headache!’
      • ‘Now, I tell you, does this not sound like a movie that is well worth seeing?’
      • ‘I spend a lot of time chasing people for information, and it hurts, I tell you.’
      • ‘So we went out, and I tell you, this boy looked at his watch the whole time.’
      • ‘Now I deliberately do the opposite and I tell you, it can be a very uncomfortable thing to do.’
      • ‘You rarely, if ever, get to know the name of the grandmother on either side - male chauvinism, I tell you.’
      assure, promise, give someone one's word, swear, guarantee
      View synonyms
  • I (or I'll) tell you what

    • Used to introduce a suggestion.

      ‘I tell you what, why don't we meet for lunch tomorrow?’
      • ‘I'll tell you what, instead why don't you write a column about an outing with a girl?’
      • ‘But I'll tell you what, I'll gladly donate my tax cut to a worthy charity if you will.’
      • ‘And I'll tell you what, we will try to bring her back - do you think we will be able to do that?’
      • ‘You can be optimistic, but I'll tell you what, don't let your guard down.’
      • ‘Listen, if you don't like it, I'll tell you what: sublet me your place.’
  • I told you (so)

    • Used to point out that one's warnings, although ignored, have been proved to be well founded.

      • ‘No, I've got nothing to say, except I told you so.’
      • ‘No matter how constructive or well meant, this week's people aren't interested in criticism, so don't say I told you so - even if you did.’
      • ‘Even when I made mistakes, many of which he predicted, he never once said, I told you so.’
      • ‘In a few years' time, we will be saying I told you so.’
      • ‘I hate to be the one to come back later on and say I told you so.’
      • ‘I feel bad for the guy and his family and really shouldn't say I told you so, but these guys need to get better advice!’
      • ‘If you are against the war, you look at those images and say, ‘See, I told you so.’’
      • ‘‘It wouldn't give me any pleasure in the event of an accident to say I told you so to the county council,’ he said.’
      • ‘I hate to say ‘I told you so yet again,’ but, I told you so.’
      • ‘I was somewhat reluctant to say I told you so, but there you have it.’
  • tell it like it is

    • informal Describe the true facts of a situation no matter how unpleasant they may be.

      • ‘It's a strong, realistic portrayal of life with young people who don't usually get a voice telling it like it is.’
      • ‘But for all his faults, I like Gordon because he's one of the few celebrities that tells it like it is.’
      • ‘He tells it like it is, and he won't apologize for that.’
      • ‘This man tells it like it is whether you like it or not, and he gained my respect after two seconds of listening to him.’
      • ‘Her willingness to tell it like it is without apology keeps her work, no matter how widespread her critical acclaim, out of the mainstream.’
      • ‘He just tells it like it is, and I think that's a great quality.’
      • ‘And what if people were straightforward and told it like it is?’
      • ‘They're saying we've told it like it is, and rather like the programmes.’
      • ‘In case you are wondering what else it takes to be a research curator at one of the world's top historical attractions, Sarah kindly tells it like it is.’
      • ‘He's real and tells it like it is and he's consistent.’
  • tell its own tale (or story)

    • Be significant or revealing, without any further explanation being necessary.

      ‘the worried expression on Helen's face told its own tale’
      • ‘Nevertheless, the Dublin episode told its own story.’
      • ‘Her worn and malnourished face told its own story.’
      • ‘The second half score of 2-8 to 0-5 tells its own tale.’
      • ‘The hearty round of applause told its own story.’
      • ‘The families and the children have, for the most part, stayed in the community that supported them through the nightmare, which tells its own story in terms of how the islanders regarded the outcome of the affair.’
      • ‘The frayed and severed string told its own tale.’
      • ‘The imagery tells its own story, though, as well.’
      • ‘And at the end of the day an embarrassing 146 run defeat just about told its own story.’
      • ‘The look on their faces told its own story as they tried to take in the dreadful news of the tragedy that had befallen this community.’
      • ‘The drooped heads and lost facial expressions on Sunday evening last told its own story.’
  • tell me about it

    • informal Used as an ironic acknowledgement of one's familiarity with an unpleasant situation or experience described by someone else.

  • tell me another

    • informal Used as an expression of incredulity.

      • ‘So we have to take his word that it lets out less fumes than a two-wheeler (oh, yes, tell me another) and that it won't clog up our roads.’
      • ‘"Oh yeah, tell me another," Larry snarls.’
  • tell the time

    • Be able to ascertain the time from reading the face of a clock or watch.

      • ‘Clocks told the time, windmills ground corn, cranes lifted things and so on.’
      • ‘He reasoned that the movement of a ship was guided by skilled intelligence, and a sundial or water clock told the time by design rather than by chance.’
      • ‘I looked at my watch but it was too dark to tell the time.’
      • ‘Mechanical watches also require servicing every three years to keep the watch working in good condition and tell the time accurately.’
      • ‘But if you want a work of art, a thing of beauty that also tells the time, buy a clock.’
      • ‘I have a digital/analogue watch that tells the time in 42 countries, solar powered, alarm, stopwatch, date, waterproof to 100 metres.’
      • ‘The Swiss had cleverly realised that a watch isn't for telling the time at all, but is instead a fashion statement.’
      • ‘A supermarket worker was able to tell the time on a digital watch but not on the analogue clock in the staff canteen.’
      • ‘Unmistakably, these watches do more than telling the time.’
      • ‘Only the clock face is fairly simple and that is because people needed to be able to tell the time easily.’
  • tell someone where to get off (or where they get off)

    • informal Angrily dismiss or rebuke someone.

      • ‘Yeah I would have told him where to get off after he acted like a jerk about the evidence you mentioned.’
      • ‘She was just about to tell him where to get off (once again) when something rather peculiar caught her eyes.’
      • ‘If he tried that with me now, I'd tell him where to get off.’
      • ‘But I told him where to get off and he hasn't spoken to me since.’
      • ‘At 21, if I approached a 40-year-old hard-nut comedian to play my new little comedy club in York, they'd probably tell me where to get off!’
      • ‘So if they ask my company to pay a license fee, I'll be recommending that we tell them where to get off.’
      • ‘He'd tell her where to get off, said a defiant voice.’
      • ‘He must be a real softie and too shy to tell her where to get off!’
  • tell someone where to put (or what to do with) something

    • informal Angrily reject something.

      ‘I told him what he could do with his diamond’
      • ‘The county council visited the Church Area Council and the residents' views were that they did not want them and they told them where to put it.’
      • ‘But seriously, though, if I don't like where you have got it, I can tell you where to put it, sort to speak.’
      • ‘I may very well have told him where to put his donation!’
  • that would be telling

    • informal Used to convey that one is not prepared to divulge confidential information.

      • ‘There's even a sweet mystery to be had in the form of… but that would be telling.’
      • ‘‘Now that would be telling,’ she grinned as she took a seat beside Kaye.’
      • ‘And that would be telling… Plus I'm not sure yet.’
      • ‘Well, that would be telling now, wouldn't it?’
      • ‘‘One of them is quite famous but that would be telling,’ Tim teases.’
      • ‘As for replying to your wonderment over whether or not Jesse's fallen for Will just a little bit… well, that would be telling.’
      • ‘Last year, my gifts were mostly made up of all the books that had inspired me in the previous year, coupled with small cartoon-like cards; and this year… well, that would be telling.’
      • ‘The old man smiled and winked, ‘now that would be telling!’’
  • there is no telling

    • Used to convey the impossibility of knowing what has happened or will happen.

      ‘there's no telling how she will react’
      • ‘He is safe and unharmed physically, but when you see people jump from buildings and been part of such a terrible ordeal, there is no telling what he may have suffered psychologically.’
      • ‘And he couldn't draw up a plan for his sculptures for one simple reason: The river supplies his materials, and there is no telling what the river will bring.’
      • ‘Because there is no telling whether these children would have survived had we gone down the path you are suggesting.’
      • ‘It is free to visit - though there is no telling for how long.’
      • ‘With bricks going through the windows, there is no telling what injuries could have been caused.’
      • ‘I think there is no telling what it might launch.’
      • ‘Still, there is no telling whether as president he would be so unequivocal.’
      • ‘Of course, there is no telling how far the current climate of cigar taxation and smoking-bans will go.’
      • ‘Should the elections be held freely, there is no telling what the outcome will be.’
      • ‘Also, there is no telling whether or not you will be caught one day.’
  • you're telling me

    • informal Used to emphasize that one is already well aware of or in complete agreement with something.

      ‘‘That was bad luck.’ ‘You're telling me!’’
      • ‘You're telling me. It's so hard.’

Phrasal Verbs

  • tell someone off

    • 1Reprimand or scold someone.

      ‘my parents told me off for coming home late’
      • ‘If I told lies I was told off and if I had dared to show my parents up in a shop, I wouldn't have been shouted at - I would have been taken home with nothing.’
      • ‘Teachers' leaders are now calling for a ban on mobile phones in the classroom because children are using them to text message or speak to their parents as soon as they have been told off.’
      • ‘Richard tends to be much stricter with Lucie in general and is fed up of being the bad guy who tells Lucie off and reprimands her.’
      • ‘Kids no longer quake in the street when a policeman tells them off.’
      • ‘Adults also punish children by shouting, telling them off, sending them to their room, and withdrawing privileges.’
      • ‘He has pulled my hair on the bus and, recently, he yelled at me so I told him off.’
      • ‘I do not suffer fools gladly, but somehow I cannot get myself to tell her off!’
      • ‘I am now forced to look for more ingenious ways of telling someone off when they get me mad.’
      • ‘I really should have told her off when I had the chance.’
      • ‘I never told him off for spending time tailoring instead of studying.’
      • ‘My psychologist tells me off for thinking like that.’
      • ‘He reluctantly agrees, and Susan tells him off.’
      • ‘My parents were forever telling me off but I never listened to them.’
      • ‘When I told them off for calling us names and bullying, they became very abusive,’ she said.’
      • ‘As a matter of fact, it had a very dramatic ending, with me telling him off and storming out of the house, with the kids cheering.’
      • ‘It would be another slight to his poor, terrified parents, who were clearly unable to ever tell him off for fear of the consequences.’
      • ‘She had to tell me off, otherwise she would be implicitly encouraging the students to bring drinks into the library.’
      • ‘Once a car stopped and the driver got out and told me off for keeping such a dangerous animal.’
      • ‘Somehow he could never tell her off or scold her when she looked at him like that.’
      • ‘These are the terms this man used to so brilliantly tell us off.’
      reprimand, rebuke, reproach, scold, admonish, reprove, remonstrate with, chastise, chide, upbraid, berate, take to task, pull up, castigate, lambaste, read someone the riot act, give someone a piece of one's mind, haul over the coals, criticize, censure
      View synonyms
    • 2Assign a member of a group to a particular task.

      ‘there used to be a chap told off every day to fetch us beer’
      • ‘We were then told off to various points on the outskirts of the village.’
      • ‘A subaltern and a sergeant were told off to supervise each platoon, any spare officers taking up positions in the rear of the battalion line.’
      • ‘I was told off to work in the trenches.’

Origin

Old English tellan ‘relate, count, estimate’, of Germanic origin; related to German zählen ‘reckon, count’, erzählen ‘recount, relate’, also to tale.

Pronunciation

tell

/tɛl/

Main definitions of tell in English

: tell1tell2

tell2

noun

Archaeology
  • (in the Middle East) an artificial mound formed by the accumulated remains of ancient settlements.

    • ‘He narrowly escaped being blown up by a mine when he was exploring a tell outside the city.’
    • ‘In the digital elevation model the small conical mound of a tell is represented by a characteristic point pattern, superposed onto the natural topography.’
    • ‘Ancient cities are now identified by the mounds raised above the surrounding terrain, called tells.’

Origin

Mid 19th century: from Arabic tall ‘hillock’.

Pronunciation

tell

/tɛl/