Definition of tale in US English:



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

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Radio broadcasts and recordings of epic tales and local histories told by leading griots have helped transport this literature into the twenty-first century.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Mary and Tom Coogan's story is an inspirational tale of a true and deep love that conquered tragedy.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Ghost stories, tales of the supernatural and horror films all scare us via confrontation with the unknown.’
    • ‘Improbable tales of true love overcoming desperate odds are a hallmark of Bollywood, the Indian film genre watched by millions worldwide.’
    • ‘Elders, by means of recitation of stories, tales, and legends, were also significant teachers.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Chloe of the Midnight Storytellers will amuse the guests by recounting tales from myth and legend, as well as adaptations of literary short stories.’
    • ‘Although the author offers up many intriguing story ingredients and historical tales, she lacks a central driving narrative.’
    • ‘Like the myth of Hercules, the legend of Samson is a tale recounted in many cultures.’
    • ‘All the ethnic groups of Uganda have a rich oral tradition of tales, legends, stories, proverbs, and riddles.’
    • ‘In traditional storytelling, trickster tales are often greeted with laughter.’
    • ‘Like other Central Asian peoples, the Turkmens have a rich folklore tradition of epic stories, tales, and lyric poems.’
    • ‘After the First World War public taste shifted away from the short story to the novel-length tale.’
    • ‘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.’
    story, short story, narrative, anecdote, report, account, record, history
    rumour, gossip, hearsay, slander, talk, allegation, tittle-tattle, libel, story
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    1. 1.1 A lie.
      • ‘It was thought that children could not possibly fabricate such tales.’
      • ‘Slanderous tales about winners are fabricated by losers.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The book is full of invented tales and wild exaggerations of documented events.’
      • ‘The closeness of being in a packed car allows the trio the chance to swap stories and the lads to fabricate tales of bravado.’
      • ‘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.’
      lie, fib, falsehood, story, untruth, fabrication, fiction, piece of fiction, trumped-up story, fake news, alternative fact
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  • 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.’


  • tell tales

    • Make known or gossip about another person's secrets, wrongdoings, or faults.

      • ‘Robert and Kitty are deputizing Isaac to sling some mud at the man telling tales on Robert, and stop the story from spreading.’
      • ‘Indeed, people love to gossip and to tell tales.’
      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
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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.