To tell is to describe or announce something, either by speaking or writing. If you're going to be late to a movie, you should tell your friends so they can save you a seat.

You might tell someone to be quiet in the library, or tell a bedtime story to your siblings. You can also tell your friend a secret or tell her secret to someone else. Informally, to tell on someone is to inform an authority about something that person did that she wasn't supposed to do. And there's also a way to use tell to mean "determine with certainty," like when you can tell it's going to rain because the sky is so dark.

Definitions of tell
  1. verb
    narrate or give a detailed account of
    “The father told a story to his child”
    synonyms: narrate, recite, recount
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    give an account of
    tell spontaneously
    tell or spin a yarn
    rhapsodise, rhapsodize
    recite a rhapsody
    type of:
    impart knowledge of some fact, state or affairs, or event to
  2. verb
    express in words
    tell me what is bothering you”
    synonyms: say, state
    state as one's opinion or judgement; declare
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    lay out, present, represent
    bring forward and present to the mind
    state something incorrectly
    answer, reply, respond
    react verbally
    introduce, precede, preface, premise
    furnish with a preface or introduction
    announce, declare
    announce publicly or officially
    articulate, enunciate, vocalise, vocalize
    express or state clearly
    get out
    express with difficulty
    state emphatically and authoritatively
    make a declaration (of dutiable goods) to a customs official
    mention, note, observe, remark
    make mention of
    add, append, supply
    state or say further
    convey or reveal information
    sum, sum up, summarise, summarize
    be a summary of
    enter a plea, as in courts of law
    confess one's faith in, or allegiance to
    argue, reason
    present reasons and arguments
    argue, indicate
    give evidence of
    call back
    return or repeat a telephone call
    speak in response
    answer adequately or successfully
    answer back in an impudent or insolent manner
    come back, rejoin, repay, retort, return, riposte
    answer back
    declare or judge unfit for use or habitation
    put a law into effect by formal declaration
    bless, consecrate, hallow, sanctify
    render holy by means of religious rites
    account, answer for
    furnish a justifying analysis or explanation
    advise, propose, suggest
    make a proposal, declare a plan for something
    assure, promise
    make a promise or commitment
    promise to undertake or give
    take the Fifth, take the Fifth Amendment
    refuse to testify by invoking the Fifth Amendment, which states that nobody may be forced to testify as a witness against himself or herself
    make a preliminary introduction, usually to a formal document
    prologise, prologize, prologuize
    write or speak a prologue
    condemn, doom, sentence
    pronounce a sentence on (somebody) in a court of law
    twist and turn so as to give an intended interpretation
    exclaim, proclaim, promulgate
    state or announce
    state freely
    affirm, assert, aver, avow, swan, swear, verify
    declare or affirm solemnly and formally as true
    depone, depose, swear
    make a deposition; declare under oath
    attest, bear witness, take the stand, testify
    give testimony in a court of law
    name the price of
    insert, slip in, sneak in, stick in
    insert casually
    toss in
    add casually to a conversation
    issue a decree
    animadvert, opine, sound off, speak out, speak up
    express one's opinion openly and without fear or hesitation
    respond to the reins, as of horses
    comment, notice, point out, remark
    make or write a comment on
    count out
    declare the loser
    type of:
    express, give tongue to, utter, verbalise, verbalize
    articulate; either verbally or with a cry, shout, or noise
  3. verb
    let something be known
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    digress, divagate, stray, wander
    lose clarity or turn aside especially from the main subject of attention or course of argument in writing, thinking, or speaking
    bespeak, betoken, indicate, point, signal
    be a signal for or a symptom of
    break, bring out, disclose, discover, divulge, expose, give away, let on, let out, reveal, unwrap
    make known to the public information that was previously known only to a few people or that was meant to be kept a secret
    spill, talk
    reveal information
    air, bare, publicise, publicize
    make public
    ingeminate, iterate, reiterate, repeat, restate, retell
    to say, state, or perform again
    propagandise, propagandize
    subject to propaganda
    announce, annunciate, foretell, harbinger, herald
    foreshadow or presage
    give, impart, leave, pass on
    transmit (knowledge or skills)
    bring (information) out of concealment
    augur, auspicate, betoken, bode, forecast, foreshadow, foretell, omen, portend, predict, prefigure, presage, prognosticate
    indicate by signs
    designate as if by a mark
    make known; pass on, of information
    explore and expose misconduct and scandals concerning public figures
    cause to be revealed and jeopardized
    reveal (something) about somebody's identity or lifestyle
    come out, come out of the closet, out
    to state openly and publicly one's homosexuality
    produce or disclose suddenly or unexpectedly
    betray, bewray
    reveal unintentionally
    reveal in private; tell confidentially
    tell anonymously
    babble, babble out, blab, blab out, let the cat out of the bag, peach, sing, spill the beans, talk, tattle
    divulge confidential information or secrets
    publicize in an exaggerated and often misleading manner
    make public by bulletin
    psychology: repeat a response after the cessation of the original stimulus
    repeat an action or statement
    dwell, harp
    come back to
    interpret, render, translate
    restate (words) from one language into another language
    paraphrase, rephrase, reword
    express the same message in different words
    bring out, issue, publish, put out, release
    prepare and issue for public distribution or sale
    broadcast, circularise, circularize, circulate, diffuse, disperse, disseminate, distribute, pass around, propagate, spread
    cause to become widely known
    air, beam, broadcast, send, transmit
    broadcast over the airwaves, as in radio or television
    resume, sum up, summarise, summarize
    give a summary (of)
    cite, quote
    repeat a passage from
    disclose directly or through prophets
    type of:
    impart knowledge of some fact, state or affairs, or event to
  4. verb
    inform positively and with certainty and confidence
    “I tell you that man is a crook!”
    synonyms: assure
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    type of:
    affirm, assert, aver, avow, swan, swear, verify
    declare or affirm solemnly and formally as true
  5. verb
    give instructions to or direct somebody to do something with authority
    “The mother told the child to get dressed”
    synonyms: enjoin, order, say
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    command with authority
    give instructions or directions for some task
    command, require
    make someone do something
    call, send for
    order, request, or command to come
    ask to go away
    instruct or command with authority
    instruct (a jury) about the law, its application, and the weighing of evidence
    burden, charge, saddle
    impose a task upon, assign a responsibility to
    make a formal request for official services
    cite, summon, summons
    call in an official matter, such as to attend court
    call, summon, or alert with a beeper
    call back, recall
    summon to return
    call in
    summon to a particular activity or employment
    call to stop the hunt or to retire, as of hunting dogs
    call to duty, military service, jury duty, etc.
    disallow, forbid, interdict, nix, prohibit, proscribe, veto
    command against
    call for
    ask to come
    printing: direct that a matter marked for omission or correction is to be retained (used in the imperative)
    call up, mobilise, mobilize, rally
    call to arms; of military personnel
    type of:
    ask (a person) to do something
  6. verb
    give evidence
    synonyms: evidence
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    type of:
    act as an informer
  7. verb
    discern or comprehend
    “He could tell that she was unhappy”
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    type of:
    guess, infer
    guess correctly; solve by guessing
  8. verb
    mark as different
    synonyms: differentiate, distinguish, secern, secernate, separate, severalise, severalize, tell apart
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    be able to distinguish, recognize as being different
    discern, discriminate, know apart
    recognize or perceive the difference
    distinguish (an element or atom) by using a radioactive isotope or an isotope of unusual mass for tracing through chemical reactions
    distinguish (as a compound or molecule) by introducing a labeled atom
    tell the sex (of young chickens)
    individualise, individualize
    make or mark or treat as individual
    put in opposition to show or emphasize differences
    severalise, severalize
    distinguish or separate
    distinguish by contrasting qualities
    decouple, dissociate
    regard as unconnected
    separate clearly, as if by boundaries
    discriminate, separate, single out
    treat differently on the basis of sex or race
    divide society into social classes or castes
    insulate, isolate
    place or set apart
    mark fine distinctions and subtleties, as among words
    hive off
    remove from a group and make separate
    separate by race or religion; practice a policy of racial segregation
    discriminate in selling or renting housing in certain areas of a neighborhood
    disadvantage, disfavor, disfavour
    put at a disadvantage; hinder, harm
    type of:
    identify, place
    recognize as being; establish the identity of someone or something
Word Family

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