Printable Version
Pronunciation: tæd-êl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive

Meaning: To give away something secret or confidential, to snitch, to tell on, to blow the whistle on someone.

Notes: Although this word has a normal personal noun, tattler, most prefer the more creative tattletale. Tattler may also refer to a migratory sandpiper in northwestern Canada. Today's word also occurs in the compound tittle-tattle, used as a noun or a verb, meaning "petty idle gossip" or, the verb, to engage in such.

In Play: This word is usually used by or in reference to children: "Little Gertrude tattled on her daddy to her mommy when she caught his hand in the cookie jar." As you can see, the verb is generally used with the preposition on. This verb may be used metaphorically: "He stopped working for the trucking company because all the trucks had a device that tattled on him for speeding."

Word History: Today's Good Word was apparently borrowed from Dutch tateren "chatter, rattle, gaggle" or the Middle Flemish variant tatelen. It came into English late in the Middle English period with the meaning "to stammer". We suppose it came to be in Dutch and other Germanic languages by virtue of onomatopoeia, imitative sound. Tittle ostensibly derived from the noun tittle from Latin titulus "inscription over an object", which later came to refer to any small diacritic mark placed over a letter. From there it became a verb meaning "to speak small", i.e. "to whisper". Spanish metathesized the vowel and the L to create tilde which, of course, English borrowed, too. (I don't think a word of thanks to William Hupy for suggesting today's fascinating Good Word could be counted as tattling on him.)

Dr. Goodword,

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