Told vs tolled

Told and tolled are commonly confused words that are pronounced in the same way but are spelled differently and have different meanings, which makes them homophones. We will examine the different meanings of the homophonic words told and tolled, the word origins of the terms, and some examples of their English usage in sentences.

Told is the past tense of tell, which means to speak or otherwise communicate facts, opinions, feelings, or news to someone. Told may mean to have communicated factual or fictional information; it may mean to have communicated a narrative or to have communicated a short list of facts. Related words are tell, tells. Tell is a irregular verb; the word told is derived from the Old English word, tealde.

Tolled is the past tense of the verb toll, which means to ring a large bell, especially by pulling a rope, or to cause something to ring with the sound of a large bell. Related words are toll, tolls, tolling. Toll is a regular verb; the word tolled is derived from the Old English word, tollen, which means to lure. Most probably, this refers to luring people to church by tolling the bell in the steeple.

Examples

Nancy New repeatedly acknowledged that someone told her to direct the money for the development of concussion treatment therapies. (Jackson Clarion Ledger)

Queen told she cannot ‘deprive’ Prince Charles of giving Camilla ‘dream’ new role (The Daily Express)

“The Doughboy Foundation has since promoted it as an annual remembrance of those who served in WWI and of the moment when the guns fell silent, and bells tolled on the Western Front … on the 11th day of the 11th month, at the 11th hour in 1918, after four years of brutal combat.” (The Highland County Press)

A half-muffled tenor bell tolled in memory of Second World War veteran and Bishop’s Stortford campanologist Kenneth Westwood. (Bishop’s Stortford Independent)