tell off

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From the military order: "number" - when starting with the first soldier, each would number himself out loud, counting in sequence file by file and rank by rank.


tell off (third-person singular simple present tells off, present participle telling off, simple past and past participle told off)

  1. (transitive) To rebuke, to reprimand, or to admonish, often in a harsh, angry, direct way.
    Joel's boss told him off for being late again.
  2. (transitive) To count (members of a sequence), to enumerate.
    • 1903, Field and Stream (page 755)
      The Recruit looked thoughtful and told off the days on his fingers.
  3. (transitive, dated) To allocate duties to someone.
    • 1908, Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows, London: Methuen, page 17:
      When they were quite ready, the now triumphant Toad led his companions to the paddock and set them to capture the old grey horse, who, without having been consulted, and to his own extreme annoyance, had been told off by Toad for the dustiest job in this dusty expedition. He frankly preferred the paddock, and took a deal of catching.
  4. (transitive, military) To divide and practise a regiment or company in the several formations, preparatory to marching to the general parade for field exercises.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Farrow to this entry?)




  • Oxford English Dictionary