having force or effect; effective; striking: a telling blow.
revealing; indicative of much otherwise unnoticed: a telling analysis of motivation in business.

1850–55; tell1 + -ing2

tellingly, adverb
untelling, adjective

1. powerful, forceful, potent, weighty. Unabridged


1 [tel]
verb (used with object), told, telling.
to give an account or narrative of; narrate; relate (a story, tale, etc.): to tell the story of Lincoln's childhood.
to make known by speech or writing (a fact, news, information, etc.); communicate.
to announce or proclaim.
to utter (the truth, a lie, etc.).
to express in words (thoughts, feelings, etc.).
to reveal or divulge (something secret or private).
to say plainly or positively: I cannot tell just what was done.
to discern or recognize (a distant person or thing) so as to be able to identify or describe: Can you tell who that is over there?
to distinguish; discriminate; ascertain: You could hardly tell the difference between them.
to inform (a person) of something: He told me his name.
to assure emphatically: I won't, I tell you!
to bid, order, or command: Tell him to stop.
to mention one after another, as in enumerating; count or set one by one or in exact amount: to tell the cattle in a herd; All told there were 17 if we are correct.
verb (used without object), told, telling.
to give an account or report: Tell me about your trip.
to give evidence or be an indication: The ruined temples told of an ancient culture, long since passed from existence.
to disclose something secret or private; inform; tattle: She knows who did it, but she won't tell.
to say positively; determine; predict: Who can tell?
to have force or effect; operate effectively: a contest in which every stroke tells.
to produce a marked or severe effect: The strain was telling on his health.
British Dialect. to talk or chat.
Verb phrases
tell off,
to separate from the whole and assign to a particular duty.
Informal. to rebuke severely; scold: It was about time that someone told him off.
tell on, to tattle on (someone).
tell it like it is, Informal. to tell the complete, unadulterated truth; be forthright: He may be crude but he tells it like it is.

before 900; Middle English tellen, Old English tellan to relate, count; cognate with Dutch tellen to reckon, count, Old Norse telja to count, say, Old High German zellēn; akin to tale

1. recount, describe, report. 2. impart. 4. speak. 6. disclose, betray; acknowledge, own, confess; declare. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
tell1 (tɛl)
vb (when intr, usually foll by of) (often foll by of) (sometimes foll by on) , tells, telling, told
1.  (when tr, may take a clause as object) to let know or notify: he told me that he would go
2.  (tr) to order or instruct (someone to do something): I told her to send the letter airmail
3.  to give an account or narration (of something): she told me her troubles
4.  (tr) to communicate by words; utter: to tell the truth
5.  (tr) to make known; disclose: to tell fortunes
6.  to serve as an indication: her blush told of her embarrassment
7.  (tr; used with can, etc; may take a clause as object) to comprehend, discover, or discern: I can tell what is wrong
8.  (tr; used with can, etc) to distinguish or discriminate: he couldn't tell chalk from cheese
9.  (intr) to have or produce an impact, effect, or strain: every step told on his bruised feet
10.  informal to reveal secrets or gossip (about): don't tell!; she told on him
11.  (tr) to assure: I tell you, I've had enough!
12.  (tr) to count (votes)
13.  dialect (intr) to talk or chatter
14.  informal chiefly (US) to tell the truth no matter how unpleasant it is
15.  tell the time to read the time from a clock
16.  slang you're telling me I know that very well
[Old English tellan; related to Old Saxon tellian, Old High German zellen to tell, count, Old Norse telja]

tell2 (tɛl)
a large mound resulting from the accumulation of rubbish on a long-settled site, esp one with mudbrick buildings, particularly in the Middle East
[C19: from Arabic tall]

Tell (tɛl)
William, German name Wilhelm Tell. a legendary Swiss patriot, who, traditionally, lived in the early 14th century and was compelled by an Austrian governor to shoot an apple from his son's head with one shot of his crossbow. He did so without mishap

telling (ˈtɛlɪŋ)
1.  having a marked effect or impact: a telling blow
2.  revealing: a telling smile

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

O.E. tellan "to reckon, calculate, consider, account," from P.Gmc. *taljanan "to mention in order" (cf. O.S. tellian, O.N. telja, O.Fris. tella "to count, tell," Du. tellen "to count, reckon," O.S. talon "to count, reckon," Dan. tale "to speak," O.H.G. zalon, Ger. zählen "to count, reckon"), from
base *talo (see tale). Meaning "to narrate, relate" is from c.1000; that of "to make known by speech or writing, announce" is from c.1122. 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 1599. Original sense in teller and phrase to tell time. For sense evolution, cf. Fr. conter "to count," raconter "to recount;" It. contare, Sp. contar "to count, recount, narrate;" Ger. 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 Heb. tel "mount, hill, heap."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
On the other hand, many readers wrote telling us how much their dogs enjoyed
  rubbing up against these plants.
No one knew, or they weren't telling, who was carving them.
The telling of fortunes and revealing the future by means of the lines inside
  the human hand are both as old as the ages.
But once you're in the thick of making the thing, you don't want anybody
  telling you to go in another direction.
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