Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. One who informs on another; a talebearer.
  • n. Something that indicates or reveals information; a sign.
  • n. Any of various devices that indicate or register information, especially:
  • n. A time clock.
  • n. Nautical One of the brightly colored lengths of yarn or ribbon attached to the shrouds, stays, or sails of a sailboat, serving to indicate wind direction relative to the boat's motion.
  • n. A row of strips hung above a railroad track to warn a passing train of low clearance ahead.
  • n. Sports A resonant metal strip, 24 or 30 inches (61 or 76 centimeters) high, across the bottom of the front wall of a racquets or squash court above which the ball must be hit.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. One who divulges private information with intent to hurt others.
  • n. Tattletale; squealer.
  • n. Something that serves to reveal something else.
  • n. A movable piece of ivory, lead, or other material, connected to the bellows of an organ, whose position indicates when the wind is exhausted.
  • n. A length of yarn or ribbon attached to a sail or shroud etc to indicate the direction of the flow of the air relative to the boat.
  • n. A mechanical attachment to the steering wheel, which, in the absence of a tiller, shows the position of the helm.
  • n. A compass in the cabin of a vessel, usually placed where the captain can see it at all hours, and thus inform himself of the vessel's course.
  • n. A machine or contrivance for indicating or recording something, particularly for keeping a check upon employees (factory hands, watchmen, drivers, etc.) by revealing to their employers what they have done or omitted.
  • n. A bird, the tattler.
  • adj. revealing something not intended to be known

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Telling tales; babbling.
  • n. One who officiously communicates information of the private concerns of others; one who tells that which prudence should suppress.
  • n. A movable piece of ivory, lead, or other material, connected with the bellows of an organ, that gives notice, by its position, when the wind is exhausted.
  • n.
  • n. A mechanical attachment to the steering wheel, which, in the absence of a tiller, shows the position of the helm.
  • n. A compass in the cabin of a vessel, usually placed where the captain can see it at all hours, and thus inform himself of the vessel's course.
  • n. A machine or contrivance for indicating or recording something, particularly for keeping a check upon employees, as factory hands, watchmen, drivers, check takers, and the like, by revealing to their employers what they have done or omitted.
  • n. The tattler. See Tattler.
  • n. A thing that serves to disclose something or give information; a hint or indication.
  • n. An arrangement consisting of long strips, as of rope, wire, or leather, hanging from a bar over railroad tracks, in such a position as to warn freight brakemen of their approach to a low overhead bridge.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. One who officiously or heedlessly communicates information concerning the private affairs of others; one who tells that which is supposed to be secret or private; a blabber; an informer; a tale-bearer.
  • n. An indication or an indicator; that which serves to convey information.
  • n. A name given to a variety of instruments or devices, usually automatic, used for counting, indicating, registering, or otherwise giving desired information.
  • n. In ornithology, a tattler; a bird of the genus Totanus in a broad sense: as, the greater and lesser telltale, Totanus melanoleucus and T. fiavipes. See tattler, and cut under yellowlegs.
  • Disposed to tell or reveal secrets, whether officiously or heedlessly; given to betraying the confidences or revealing the private affairs of others; blabbing: as, telltale people.
  • Showing, revealing, or denoting that which is not intended to be known, apparent, or proclaimed: as, telltale tears; telltale blushes.
  • That gives warning or intimation of something: as, a telltale pipe attached to a cistern or tank.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. disclosing unintentionally
  • n. someone who gossips indiscreetly

Etymologies

From Old English (circa 1550) (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • But state bushfire chief Phil Koperberg said commanders were watching up to 30 suspects for certain telltale signs.

    Firefighters Starting Their Own Fires | Impact Lab

  • Sometimes seeing someone you have a crush on results in telltale physiological signs.

    Archive 2005-07-01

  • The "Dra" bit refers to a telltale sign of viral infection—double-stranded RNA molecules—while the "co" bit concerns the mechanism by which a cell commits suicide if so infected.

    Modifying Mother Nature to Kill Nasty Viruses

  • I mean, I never saw any, you know, what I guess you would call telltale signs that Susan ever would have hurt Michael and Alex, would have harmed them.

    CNN Transcript Apr 29, 2009

  • Then there were the ubiquitous "floatables": leaves, wrappers, a plastic bottle, a condom, the last of which Mr. Lipscomb identified as a telltale sign of sewage.

    NYT > Home Page

  • I recall the telltale scene in Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" in which the clairvoyant little boy envisions the brass elevator doors of his mysterious new family home in a mystical hotel resort slowly opening to unleash a torrent of blood that spills and splashes over the entire hall, filling it (and his innocent mind) with the hotel's revealed contents of terror and "redrum."

    Arizona Daily Wildcat

  • When it's all over, scientists will scrutinize every twisted shard of metal for some kind of telltale resemblance to the catastrophe that brought down TWA Flight 800.

    What Really Happened?

  • He could have used magic to keep them all warm, of course, but that would have been another kind of telltale, as certain to some "eyes" as lighting a beacon.

    The Elvenbane

  • Running along the front wall, 17 inches in height, is the "telltale" made of sheet metal.

    Squash Tennis

  • The boat was storming along to the southward, as he knew by a glance at the "telltale" overhead, and all seemed well with the runaways until a sudden stopping of the engines roused him up, to peer out the deadlights, and speculate as to what was ahead.

    The Wreck of the Titan or, Futility

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