Definition of telltale in US English:



  • attributive Revealing, indicating, or betraying something.

    ‘the telltale bulge of a concealed weapon’
    • ‘The telltale signs will always peer through at the experts who will be examining the handwriting.’
    • ‘Bark stripping is normally the telltale sign of this little rodent.’
    • ‘There were, though, telltale signs of things to come.’
    • ‘That telltale pressure is one of the hallmarks of acute sinusitis.’
    • ‘Most people who lose weight from only dieting develop telltale signs of this, by having a lot of loose skin, as opposed to the well-toned, firm body of someone who is eating correctly and exercising.’
    • ‘Then he notes the telltale faint imprints of claws.’
    • ‘After a few dives, the inlet filter on my serviced regulator bore the telltale brown dust of internal tank corrosion.’
    • ‘Soon after uttering the last word, the telltale, music-ruining shatter of glass could be heard.’
    • ‘And oil analysis reveals telltale signs of the health of a given machine and what must be done to keep it in optimum running condition.’
    • ‘Indeed, there are some clear telltale signs, that suggest that this is not necessarily a one time occurrence.’
    • ‘He didn't have a change in his bowel habits, he didn't have rectal bleeding; and so he didn't have any of the clear, telltale signs of colon cancer.’
    • ‘Eat plenty of hot food, drink lots of soup and tea; hypothermia is a very real danger that can come on very quickly with few telltale signs.’
    • ‘It uses a diagram of a baby to show where the telltale signs of meningitis materialise.’
    • ‘For example, an experienced ticket checker would have unconsciously learnt to look for telltale signs to correctly identify a ticketless traveller.’
    • ‘The telltale signs are underweight children, poor academic performance, and health problems.’
    • ‘Under their ponchos he spied telltale bulges that he took to be weapons.’
    • ‘Again, the telltale shimmer this produced went unnoticed.’
    • ‘While large cash transfers can occasionally tip off authorities to drug activity, terrorists leave few telltale financial signs.’
    • ‘His feet are swollen and his skin cracked, both telltale signs of malnutrition.’
    • ‘There are always telltale signs and whether people want to open up their eyes to those signs is up to them.’
    revealing, revelatory, suggestive, meaningful, significant, meaning, indicative
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  • 1British A person, especially a child, who reports others' wrongdoings or reveals their secrets.

    • ‘I guess being pirates we don't like telltales.’
    • ‘I don't recommend this because it is a one-way process that can't be undone and nobody likes telltales.’
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  • 2A device or object that automatically gives a visual indication of the state or presence of something.

    • ‘Additional reinforcement was provided by a pair of 1/2-inch diameter, black iron pipes which were used as telltales.’
    • ‘He said the only area of movement he had been able to detect was where the balcony was attached to the front wall, but suggested telltales should be cemented across the cracks to see if they were getting worse.’
    1. 2.1 (on a sailboat) a piece of string or fabric that shows the direction and force of the wind.
      • ‘Flags and pennants are also used as telltales on a sailing ship that show the direction of the wind.’
      • ‘If the outside telltale flutters, let the sail out.’