explain

\ \ [15] To explain a matter is literally to ‘make it plain’. The word comes from Latin explānāre, a compound verb formed from the intensive prefix ex- and the adjective plānusflat’ (source of English plain). This originally meant ‘flatten out, make smooth’, but the metaphorical sense ‘make clear’ soon took over, and accompanied the verb into English (although in the 16th and 17th centuries a few scholars attempted to revive the literal sense: ‘He must calm and explain his forehead’, Sir Thomas Chalenor, translation of Desiderus Erasmus’ Praise of Folly 1549).
\ \ Cf.ESPLANADE, PLAIN

Word origins - 2ed. . 2005.

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  • explain — 1 Explain, expound, explicate, elucidate, interpret, construe are comparable when they mean to make oneself or another understand the meaning of something. Explain, the most general term, implies a making of something plain or intelligible to… …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • Explain — Ex*plain ([e^]ks*pl[=a]n ), v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Explained}([e^]ks*pl[=a]nd ); p. pr. & vb. n. {Explaining}.] [L. explandare to flatten, spread out, explain; ex out + plandare to make level or plain, planus plain: cf. OF. esplaner, explaner. See… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • explain — [ek splān′, iksplān′] vt. [ME explanen < L explanare, to flatten < ex , out + planare, to make level < planus, level (see PLANE2): sp. infl. by PLAIN1] 1. to make clear, plain, or understandable 2. to give the meaning or interpretation… …   English World dictionary

  • explain — (v.) early 15c., from L. explanare to make level, smooth out; also to explain, make clear (see EXPLANATION (Cf. explanation)). Originally explane, spelling altered by influence of plain. In 17c., occasionally used more literally, of the unfolding …   Etymology dictionary

  • explain — ► VERB 1) make clear by giving a detailed description. 2) give a reason or justification for. 3) (explain oneself) excuse or justify one s motives or conduct. 4) (explain away) minimize the significance of (something awkward) by giving an excuse… …   English terms dictionary

  • Explain — Ex*plain , v. i. To give an explanation. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • explain — I verb account for, annotate, assign a meaning to, cause to be understood, clarify, clear of obscurity, clear up, decipher, define, demonstrate, describe, disentangle, elucidate, enlighten, enucleate, exemplify, expedire, explanare, explicate,… …   Law dictionary

  • explain — [v] make clear; give a reason for account for, analyze, annotate, break down, bring out, clarify, clear up, construe, decipher, define, demonstrate, describe, diagram, disclose, elucidate, excuse, explicate, expound, get across*, go into detail,… …   New thesaurus

  • explain — ex|plain W1S1 [ıkˈspleın] v [I and T] [Date: 1500 1600; : Latin; Origin: explanare to make level, unfold , from planus level, flat ] 1.) to tell someone about something in a way that is clear or easy to understand ▪ Our lawyer carefully explained …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • explain — ex|plain [ ık spleın ] verb *** 1. ) transitive to tell someone something in a way that helps them understand it better: My full name is Juliet Avery, Juliet explained patiently. explain something to someone: The doctor explained the risks to me… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • explain */*/*/ — UK [ɪkˈspleɪn] / US verb Word forms explain : present tense I/you/we/they explain he/she/it explains present participle explaining past tense explained past participle explained 1) a) [transitive] to tell someone something in a way that helps… …   English dictionary

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