Main definitions of tell in English

: tell1tell2

tell1

verb

  • 1[reporting verb] Communicate information, facts, or news 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’
    • ‘Sources told us earlier today that the campaign would widen and apparently it has.’
    • ‘One doctor told the conference he sees 50 patients a day.’
    • ‘Eyewitnesses told of the horror of being crushed, of falling and then having other people falling on top of them.’
    • ‘Dad was still telling me how proud he was of me.’
    • ‘Hearing her friends tell her how lucky she was to have someone so devoted only made it worse.’
    • ‘He lost both his job and later his life for his troubles, for speaking out and telling the truth.’
    • ‘That's because he speaks his mind and tells the truth.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Another doctor told the inquest the symptoms could have been caused by anxiety and depression.’
    • ‘The inquest was told yesterday that he complained of feeling " queasy " minutes before the tragic incident.’
    • ‘The owner of the chemist's shop where the armed robbery took place told of his shock and horror at the incident.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘She had no doubt been told of the historic reasons why the lords feel they must rule us.’
    • ‘Neighbours have spoken of their shock at the incident and told of a quiet woman who kept herself to herself.’
    • ‘A North Yorkshire farmer today told of his family's despair as foot and mouth claimed his flock of sheep.’
    • ‘The couple told of the whispering campaign in their community accusing them of being in some way responsible.’
    • ‘In other words, telling the plain truth probably would have been sufficient.’
    speak, utter, say, voice, state, declare
    inform, let know, notify, apprise, make aware, mention something to, acquaint with, advise, put in the picture, brief, fill in, break the news to
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1[with object and infinitive] Order, instruct, or advise (someone) to do something.
      ‘tell him to go away’
      • ‘They told them to dismount and then tied them up and ordered them into the American vehicle.’
      • ‘With a standing order, you tell your bank to pay a fixed sum at a regular interval to an organisation or individual.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She knew she had been told to stay quiet, but she couldn't.’
      • ‘The same lawyers told him to bring charges to a civil court and the sports court of arbitrage.’
      • ‘The jury normally receives an order from the court telling it to accept the laws as they are.’
      • ‘People are too intelligent for us to direct their minds and tell them go this way or that way.’
      • ‘But the pair were unable to attend after being told to stay in hospital.’
      instruct, order, give orders, command, direct, charge, enjoin, call on, require
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2[with object] Narrate or relate (a tale or story)
      • ‘The central event, told in flashback, is very powerfully and beautifully expressed.’
      • ‘They do that by telling great stories and tales from wherever they are.’
      • ‘Talking about bears leads him to tell an amazing bear story, which becomes our film with Harris narrating as he tells the story.’
      • ‘Tales of epic heroes were traditionally told around campfires just before the battle.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He is so good at telling Andersen's tales that one wishes to hear more.’
      • ‘The tale is told in flashback for no apparent reason other than to vary the storytelling approach.’
      • ‘He tells a tale of a fellow senator who served with him in the early 1990s.’
      • ‘She ate heartily as she told her tale in full and all about the quest she had set for herself.’
      • ‘A schoolteacher of mine once told this tale to the entire class.’
      • ‘She tells a harrowing tale of how the owners waited until it was too late.’
      • ‘She turns to a mysterious woman named Mary who tells exotic tales and teaches Tessa to read.’
      • ‘I once told this tale to a pal.’
      • ‘The autobiographical narrator tells her story not because of her ‘mundane life’ but in spite of it.’
      • ‘Readers should remember this is an American story, told from the American perspective.’
      • ‘She said: " Spike was a regular here and he was always telling jokes.’
      • ‘Once upon a time in faraway places, stories were told around campfires and hearths among family and friends.’
      • ‘She remembered her father telling her tales of pirates marooning their captains and awful things of that sort.’
      • ‘The film is told entirely in flashback, from the perspectives of our three heroes.’
      • ‘It tells the tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and their quest for the Holy Grail.’
    3. 1.3[with object] Reveal (information) to someone in a nonverbal way.
      ‘the figures tell a different story’
      [with two objects] ‘the smile on her face told him everything’
      • ‘However, the most telling evidence of its enduring value is that it is still in print three decades later.’
      • ‘Although intricate in their themes, each picture tells a thousand different stories while remaining beautifully simple.’
      • ‘But the body of his report tells a different story.’
      • ‘But closer examination of the figures tells a different story.’
      • ‘However, a more telling statistic would be loss and damage rate per 1,000 weapons passes.’
      • ‘The most telling fact is that I had a terrible job getting the book back from my colleagues to review.’
      • ‘Each movement of his body tells the story described by song.’
      • ‘Within families a lot happens on the periphery and the most telling details are often seen out of the corner of one's eye.’
      • ‘Each painting tells a story and relates back to Stadium Australia and the workers.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘While headlines screamed of a terrifying rise in youth crime, Wood said the figures told a different story.’
      • ‘Sadly, the reality tells a different, a gloomier kind of story.’
      • ‘The evidence of the accused tells an entirely different story, in that he says he did not arrange the marriage.’
      • ‘Figures tell part of the story but are not the sole reason for Manly's collapse.’
      reveal, show, be evidence of, give evidence of, disclose, indicate, convey, signify
      View synonyms
    4. 1.4[no 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 misdemeanors of.
      ‘friends don't tell on each other’
      • ‘And then you can send off vindictive messages to the spammers, telling them you told on them.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘‘There are many cases where students have been told they'll be kicked out if they don't tell on their friends,’ says Manfred.’
      • ‘The minute someone blabs, it's the fault of whoever broke the silence and told on Matt.’
      • ‘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
  • 2[with clause] Decide or determine correctly or with certainty.

    ‘you can tell they're in love’
    • ‘I look at her eyes in her own rear-view mirror and I can tell that she is laughing at me.’
    • ‘The muscle in his jaw clenches, and you can tell he's trying hard not to start crying.’
    • ‘I can tell that she knows something is not quite right about the scenario she walked in on.’
    • ‘I can tell that this is going to be one of those long-winded, rambling posts about nothing at all.’
    • ‘From the way he's smiling, I can tell that he hasn't smiled in a long time.’
    • ‘You can tell that they're starting to like you, that they want to trust you.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It is perfect in every way, and I can tell that both my grandmother and my aunt agree.’
    • ‘As the music swells to a triumphant brass climax, I can tell that victory is within my grasp.’
    • ‘Nobody can tell, but they will certainly have their work cut out for them.’
    • ‘Talking to people in the area about it, one can tell that they are all very proud of their Medical Centre.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I can tell that he loves what he does, that all his dreams are busy coming true.’
    • ‘She can tell that for once Jason is surprised and she decides that that is a good thing.’
    • ‘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 first impressions you can tell that this is a bike that has been designed with a true passion for the sport it was intended.’
    • ‘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 they imagine that ideal job in banking is lying just around the next corner.’
    • ‘Although he's a cool, controlled character, one can tell that Scott is a little hurt by this.’
    ascertain, decide, determine, work out, make out, deduce, discern, perceive, see, identify, recognize, understand, comprehend
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    1. 2.1[with object] Distinguish (one person or thing) from another; 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!’
      • ‘He's the only person at the bar who can't tell the difference between beer and water.’
      • ‘Personally, I can't tell the difference between diamonds and bits of clear broken glass!’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The company is in big trouble if their commissioning editors can't tell the difference between the two.’
      • ‘It just can't tell the difference between its narrowband and broadband users.’
      • ‘He can't tell the difference between the truth and what his lawyer is telling him.’
      distinguish, differentiate, tell apart, discriminate
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  • 3[no 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’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The strain is beginning to tell on her.’
    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 [with object] Count (the members of a series or 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.’
    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.

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

Phrases

  • as far as one can tell

    • Judging from the available information.

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

    • Used to emphasize a statement.

      ‘that took me by surprise, I can tell you!’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Maybe it's just the first signs of drought, but it's all very unnatural, I tell you.’
      • ‘Now I deliberately do the opposite and I tell you, it can be a very uncomfortable thing to do.’
      • ‘I spend a lot of time chasing people for information, and it hurts, I tell you.’
      • ‘You rarely, if ever, get to know the name of the grandmother on either side - male chauvinism, I tell you.’
      • ‘Now, I tell you, does this not sound like a movie that is well worth seeing?’
      • ‘So we went out, and I tell you, this boy looked at his watch the whole time.’
      • ‘I wouldn't drink that the whole night, I tell you - it's going to give you a headache!’
      • ‘Can I tell you, though, what else we saw were people who were on the verge of dying.’
      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?’
      • ‘Listen, if you don't like it, I'll tell you what: sublet me your place.’
      • ‘You can be optimistic, but I'll tell you what, don't let your guard down.’
      • ‘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?’
  • i told you (so)

    • Used as a way of pointing out that one's warnings, although ignored, have been proved to be well founded.

      • ‘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!’
      • ‘I hate to say ‘I told you so yet again,’ but, 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.’
      • ‘In a few years' time, we will be saying I told you so.’
      • ‘Even when I made mistakes, many of which he predicted, he never once said, I told you so.’
      • ‘If you are against the war, you look at those images and say, ‘See, I told you so.’’
      • ‘I hate to be the one to come back later on and say 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.’
      • ‘I was somewhat reluctant to say I told you so, but there you have it.’
      • ‘No, I've got nothing to say, except I told you so.’
  • tell one's beads

  • tell someone's fortune

    • Make predictions about a person's future by palmistry, using a crystal ball, reading tarot cards, or similar divining methods.

      • ‘After a session with the local witchdoctor who told our fortune, we sampled the wonderful hot springs nearby.’
      • ‘I know fortune cookies rarely tell your fortune, but when did they start telling you off?’
      • ‘In Asia, there are people who can tell your fortune by just looking at your palm or face.’
      • ‘You may want to save these though, since many believe that you can use them to tell your fortune.’
      • ‘She took her daughter out to see them and they admired the little girl as they told her fortune.’
      • ‘I was in the middle of telling someone's fortune when I heard a commotion.’
      • ‘The last time someone told my fortune they didn't say a word about living in another country so I discounted most of the things that they said.’
      • ‘Then an older man, wearing a lab coat but still strongly reminiscent of both the tarot reader and the zodiac expert, ran his fingertips over the slides, as though they were Braille, and told her fortune.’
      • ‘And after that was attended to, she drew up a chair to the rickety table, and told her fortune with an old deck of cards.’
      • ‘My friend Jennifer decided one day that she would tell my fortune using an ordinary pack of playing cards.’
  • tell it like it is

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

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He tells it like it is, and he won't apologize for that.’
      • ‘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's real and tells it like it is and he's consistent.’
      • ‘Her willingness to tell it like it is without apology keeps her work, no matter how widespread her critical acclaim, out of the mainstream.’
      • ‘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.’
  • tell its own tale (or story)

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

      ‘the worried expression on Helen's face told its own tale’
      • ‘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 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.’
      • ‘And at the end of the day an embarrassing 146 run defeat just about told its own story.’
      • ‘The frayed and severed string told its own tale.’
      • ‘The drooped heads and lost facial expressions on Sunday evening last told its own story.’
      • ‘Her worn and malnourished face told its own story.’
      • ‘Nevertheless, the Dublin episode told its own story.’
      • ‘The second half score of 2-8 to 0-5 tells its own tale.’
      • ‘The imagery tells its own story, though, as well.’
      • ‘The hearty round of applause told its own story.’
  • tell me about it

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

  • tell me another

    • informal Used as an expression of disbelief or 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 something a mile off

  • tell tales

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

    • see tale
      • ‘"You mustn't tell tales," was Grace's frank answer.’
      • ‘We all know that we mustn't tell tales – our mothers or teachers probably punished us when we did so as children.’
  • tell it to the marines

  • tell time

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

      • ‘But if you want a work of art, a thing of beauty that also tells the time, buy a clock.’
      • ‘A supermarket worker was able to tell the time on a digital watch but not on the analogue clock in the staff canteen.’
      • ‘Only the clock face is fairly simple and that is because people needed to be able to tell the time easily.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Clocks told the time, windmills ground corn, cranes lifted things and so on.’
      • ‘Unmistakably, these watches do more than telling the time.’
      • ‘The Swiss had cleverly realised that a watch isn't for telling the time at all, but is instead a fashion statement.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I have a digital/analogue watch that tells the time in 42 countries, solar powered, alarm, stopwatch, date, waterproof to 100 metres.’
  • tell someone where to get off (or where they get off)

    • informal Angrily dismiss or rebuke someone.

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

    • informal Angrily or emphatically 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.’
      • ‘I may very well have told him where to put his donation!’
      • ‘But seriously, though, if I don't like where you have got it, I can tell you where to put it, sort to speak.’
  • that would be telling

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

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘There's even a sweet mystery to be had in the form of… but that would be telling.’
      • ‘‘One of them is quite famous but that would be telling,’ Tim teases.’
      • ‘Well, that would be telling now, wouldn't it?’
      • ‘And that would be telling… Plus I'm not sure yet.’
      • ‘The old man smiled and winked, ‘now that would be telling!’’
      • ‘‘Now that would be telling,’ she grinned as she took a seat beside Kaye.’
      • ‘As for replying to your wonderment over whether or not Jesse's fallen for Will just a little bit… well, 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’
      • ‘It is free to visit - though there is no telling for how long.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Should the elections be held freely, there is no telling what the outcome will be.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Of course, there is no telling how far the current climate of cigar taxation and smoking-bans will go.’
      • ‘Because there is no telling whether these children would have survived had we gone down the path you are suggesting.’
      • ‘Still, there is no telling whether as president he would be so unequivocal.’
      • ‘Also, there is no telling whether or not you will be caught one day.’
  • to tell (you) the truth

    • see truth
      • ‘I don't think there's much hate in it at all: to tell you the truth, it's actually quite interesting.’
      • ‘Management has been too hard on them lately, and to tell you the truth, the benefits haven't been that stellar either.’
      • ‘I watch very little television, to tell you the truth, because of my children.’
      • ‘Well, to tell you the truth, I was actually glad they were going to eat lunch with me.’
      • ‘‘The only thing I fall in love with is my dog, to tell you the truth,’ he confesses.’
    • To be frank (used especially when making an admission or when expressing an unwelcome or controversial opinion)

      ‘I think, if truth be told, we were all a little afraid of him’
      ‘to tell you the truth, I've never met the guys’
      • ‘It's Friday evening and there is a look of immense satisfaction on his face - although it is probably more relief, if truth be told.’
      • ‘But, truth to tell, I'm too tired to think about it, or anything else.’
      • ‘However, if truth be told, I'm still experimenting.’
      • ‘When the tests were finished I walked off feeling really happy with myself because, truth to tell, I do feel pretty good these days.’
      • ‘This is a novel concept for Scotland, and, truth to tell, we are not very good at it.’
      • ‘But I don't actually envy her, because truth to tell, I hate weddings.’
      • ‘Will said with a slight smile in his voice, ‘That realisation has been a long time coming, in fact you've been a bit slow on the uptake if truth be told.’’
      • ‘They clapped, they beamed, they leapt to their feet to welcome a speech that, truth to tell, was more a statement of intent than a programme for government.’
      • ‘Well, truth to tell, there are things about it that aren't funny at all, but I'll stick to my more positive take for now.’
      • ‘They all have varying degrees of proficiency - although if truth be told, most would probably be classed as being of fairly mediocre quality.’
      in fact, in actual fact, in point of fact, as a matter of fact, in reality, really, actually, to tell the truth, if truth be told
      View synonyms
  • you're telling me!

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

      • ‘You're telling me. It's so hard.’

Phrasal Verbs

  • tell someone off

    • Reprimand or scold someone.

      ‘my parents told me off for coming home late’
      • ‘I am now forced to look for more ingenious ways of telling someone off when they get me mad.’
      • ‘He has pulled my hair on the bus and, recently, he yelled at me so I told him off.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Once a car stopped and the driver got out and told me off for keeping such a dangerous animal.’
      • ‘I really should have told her off when I had the chance.’
      • ‘These are the terms this man used to so brilliantly tell us off.’
      • ‘He reluctantly agrees, and Susan tells him off.’
      • ‘She had to tell me off, otherwise she would be implicitly encouraging the students to bring drinks into the library.’
      • ‘Somehow he could never tell her off or scold her when she looked at him like that.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘My parents were forever telling me off but I never listened to them.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I never told him off for spending time tailoring instead of studying.’
      • ‘Kids no longer quake in the street when a policeman tells them off.’
      • ‘My psychologist tells me off for thinking like that.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It would be another slight to his poor, terrified parents, who were clearly unable to ever tell him off for fear of the consequences.’
      • ‘Adults also punish children by shouting, telling them off, sending them to their room, and withdrawing privileges.’
      • ‘I do not suffer fools gladly, but somehow I cannot get myself to tell her off!’
      • ‘When I told them off for calling us names and bullying, they became very abusive,’ she said.’
      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
      give someone a talking-to, give someone a telling-off, dress down, give someone a dressing-down, give someone an earful, give someone a roasting, give someone a rocket, give someone a rollicking, rap, rap someone over the knuckles, slap someone's wrist, let someone have it, bawl out, give someone hell, come down on, blow up, pitch into, lay into, lace into, give someone a caning, blast, rag, keelhaul
      tick off, have a go at, carpet, monster, give someone a mouthful, tear someone off a strip, give someone what for, wig, give someone a wigging, give someone a row, row
      chew out, ream out
      bollock, give someone a bollocking
      chew someone's ass, ream someone's ass
      call down, rate, give someone a rating, trim
      reprehend, objurgate
      View synonyms

Origin

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

Pronunciation

tell

/tel/

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.

    • ‘In the digital elevation model the small conical mound of a tell is represented by a characteristic point pattern, superposed onto the natural topography.’
    • ‘He narrowly escaped being blown up by a mine when he was exploring a tell outside the city.’
    • ‘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

/tel/