Old English tellan "to reckon, calculate, consider, account," from Proto-Germanic *taljanan "to mention in order" (cf. Old Saxon tellian, Old Norse telja, Old Frisian tella "to count, tell," Dutch tellen "to count, reckon," Old Saxon talon "to count, reckon," Danish tale "to speak," Old High German zalon, German zählen "to count, reckon"), from root *talo (see tale). Meaning "to narrate, relate" is from c.1000; that of "to make known by speech or writing, announce" is from early 12c. Sense of "to reveal or disclose" is from c.1400; that of "to act as an informer, to 'peach' " is recorded from 1901. Meaning "to order (someone to do something)" is from 1590s. Original sense in teller and phrase to tell time. For sense evolution, cf. French conter "to count," raconter "to recount;" Italian contare, Spanish contar "to count, recount, narrate;" German zählen "to count," erzählen "to recount, narrate."
I tolde hyme so, & euer he seyde nay. [Thomas Hoccleve, "The Regiment of Princes," c.1412]Telling "having effect or force" is from 1852.
"mound, hill," 1864, from Arabic tall, related to Hebrew tel "mount, hill, heap."
Obscene matter broadcast on television (1980+)
The repeated exchange of recorded telephone messages: I don't feel like playing telephone tag with her/ ''Having computers in our volunteers' homes has eliminated phone tag,'' says Power, referring to the pervasive round-robin of messages left and phone calls missed (1990s+)