tell against

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English[edit]

Verb[edit]

tell against

  1. (transitive, idiomatic) To function as a liability (for someone); to put into a condition of disadvantage.
    • 1871, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Pink and White Tyranny, ch. 27:
      [S]ome people . . . have been so short-sighted and reckless as to clamor for an easy dissolution of the marriage-contract. . . . Is it possible that they do not see that this is a liberty which, once granted, would always tell against the weaker sex?
    • 1903, Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh, ch. 34:
      Ernest's want of muscular strength did not tell against him here.
    • 2003 June 23, First Chapter: Auto da Fay by Fay Weldon, New York Times:
      [H]ard as he worked, his age was beginning to tell against him.
  2. (transitive, idiomatic) To serve as evidence which casts doubt upon.
    • 1892, George Gissing, Born In Exile, ch. 2:
      She knew he was disposed to catch at anything that seemed to tell against Godwin's claims.
    • 1905, Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons," in The Return of Sherlock Holmes:
      "Such a fact must tell against the theory."
    • 2002 Oct. 1, John Grimshaw, Clue Challenge: BOLE, The Times (UK):
      [T]he comma tells against this reading.

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