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explain

[ik-spleyn] /ɪkˈspleɪn/
verb (used with object)
1.
to make plain or clear; render understandable or intelligible:
to explain an obscure point.
Synonyms: explicate.
Antonyms: confuse.
2.
to make known in detail:
to explain how to do something.
3.
to assign a meaning to; interpret:
How can you explain such a silly remark?
4.
to make clear the cause or reason of; account for:
I cannot explain his strange behavior.
Synonyms: justify.
verb (used without object)
5.
to give an explanation.
Verb phrases
6.
explain away,
  1. to diminish or nullify the significance of by explanation:
    He couldn't explain away his absence from home at the time the robbery was committed.
  2. to dispel (doubts, difficulties, etc.) by explanation:
    She explained away the child's fears.
Origin of explain
late Middle English
1375-1425
1375-1425; late Middle English explanen < Latin explānāre to smooth out, make intelligible, spread out on flat surface. See ex-1, plane1
Related forms
explainable, adjective
explainer, explanator
[ek-spluh-ney-ter] /ˈɛk spləˌneɪ tər/ (Show IPA),
noun
misexplained, adjective
nonexplainable, adjective
overexplain, verb
preexplain, verb
reexplain, verb (used with object)
unexplainable, adjective
unexplainably, adverb
unexplained, adjective
unexplaining, adjective
well-explained, adjective
Synonym Study
1. Explain, elucidate, expound, interpret imply making the meaning of something clear or understandable. To explain is to make plain, clear, or intelligible something that is not known or understood: to explain a theory or a problem. To elucidate is to throw light on what before was dark and obscure, usually by illustration and commentary and sometimes by elaborate explanation: They asked him to elucidate his statement. To expound is to give a methodical, detailed, scholarly explanation of something, usually Scriptures, doctrines, or philosophy: to expound the doctrine of free will. To interpret is to give the meaning of something by paraphrase, by translation, or by an explanation based on personal opinion: to interpret a poem or a symbol.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for explaining away
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He gave them of his best, explaining away such as he could of the difficulties which had confronted him.

    The Age of Erasmus P. S. Allen
  • In explaining away the difficulties to her, he explained them away to himself, also.

    Mr. Opp Alice Hegan Rice
  • The ability which some eminent lawyers possess of explaining away the bad points of a cause by ingenious sophistry was denied him.

  • This was the Parliamentarian way of explaining away their defeat.

  • For the next five minutes he was earnestly engaged in explaining away his uncanny request.

  • There was no explaining away or excusing what Roger had done; she was too fair-minded to try.

    The Heart's Country Mary Heaton Vorse
  • I ventured to tell her so last night, in explaining away a little misapprehension that had existed between us.

    Thereby Hangs a Tale George Manville Fenn
  • Forgotten, we say, since surely forgetfulness is the true origin of many futile attempts at explaining away essential principles.

  • And I think we can quit worrying about explaining away the money angle.

    Fifty Per Cent Prophet Gordon Randall Garrett
British Dictionary definitions for explaining away

explain

/ɪkˈspleɪn/
verb
1.
(when transitive, may take a clause as object) to make (something) comprehensible, esp by giving a clear and detailed account of the relevant structure, operation, surrounding circumstances, etc
2.
(transitive) to justify or attempt to justify (oneself) by giving reasons for one's actions or words
Derived Forms
explainable, adjective
explainer, noun
Word Origin
C15: from Latin explānāre to flatten, from plānus level
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for explaining away

explain

v.

early 15c., from Latin explanare "to make level, smooth out;" also "to explain, make clear" (see explanation).

Originally explane, spelling altered by influence of plain. Also see plane (v.2). In 17c., occasionally used more literally, of the unfolding of material things: Evelyn has buds that "explain into leaves" ["Sylva, or, A discourse of forest-trees, and the propagation of timber in His Majesties dominions," 1664]. Related: Explained; explaining; explains.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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