"tell or recite in detail, relate the particulars or incidents of," 1748, a back-formation from narration or else from Latin narratus, past participle of narrare "to tell, relate, recount," from PIE root *gno- "to know." "Richardson and Johnson call it Scottish" [OED], a stigma which kept it from general use until 19c. A few mid-17c. instances are traceable to Spanish narrar. Related: Narrated; narrating.
*gnō-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to know."
It forms all or part of: acknowledge; acquaint; agnostic; anagnorisis; astrognosy; can (v.1) "have power to, be able;" cognition; cognizance; con (n.2) "study;" connoisseur; could; couth; cunning; diagnosis; ennoble; gnome; (n.2) "short, pithy statement of general truth;" gnomic; gnomon; gnosis; gnostic; Gnostic; ignoble; ignorant; ignore; incognito; ken (n.1) "cognizance, intellectual view;" kenning; kith; know; knowledge; narrate; narration; nobility; noble; notice; notify; notion; notorious; physiognomy; prognosis; quaint; recognize; reconnaissance; reconnoiter; uncouth; Zend.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit jna- "know;" Avestan zainti- "knowledge," Old Persian xšnasatiy "he shall know;" Old Church Slavonic znati "recognizes," Russian znat "to know;" Latin gnoscere "get to know," nobilis "known, famous, noble;" Greek gignōskein "to know," gnōtos "known," gnōsis "knowledge, inquiry;" Old Irish gnath "known;" German kennen "to know," Gothic kannjan "to make known."
1630s, "relate or narrate in particulars," from French dtailler "cut up in pieces; narrate in particulars," from Old French detaillier "cut in pieces" (12c.), from de- "entirely" (see de-) + taillier "to cut in pieces" (see tailor (n.)). Meaning "divide or set off" (especially for military duty) is from 1793. Related: Detailed; detailing.
late 14c., romauncen, "recite a narrative poem," from romance (n.) and also from Old French romancier "narrate in French; translate into French," from romanz (n.). Later "invent fictitious stories" (1670s), then "be romantically enthusiastic" (1849); meaning "court as a lover" is from 1938, probably from romance (n.). Related: Romanced; romancing.
Old English tellan "to reckon, calculate, number, compute; consider, think, esteem, account" (past tense tealde, past participle teald), from Proto-Germanic *taljan "to mention in order" (source also of Old Saxon tellian "tell," Old Norse telja "to count, number; to tell, say," Old Frisian tella "to count; to tell," Middle Dutch and Dutch tellen, Old Saxon talon "to count, reckon," Danish tale "to speak," Old High German zalon, German zählen "to count, reckon"), from PIE root *del- (2) "to count, reckon" (see tale).
Meaning "to narrate, announce, relate" in English is from c. 1000; that of "to make known by speech or writing, announce" is from early 12c. Sense of "to reveal or disclose" is from c. 1400; that of "to act as an informer, to 'peach' " is recorded from 1901. Meaning "to order (someone to do something)" is from 1590s. To tell (someone) off "reprimand" is from 1919.
Original sense in teller and phrase tell time. For sense evolution, compare French conter "to count," raconter "to recount;" Italian contare, Spanish contar "to count, recount, narrate;" German zählen "to count," erzählen "to recount, narrate." Klein also compares Hebrew saphar "he counted," sipper "he told."
"storyteller, person given to or skilled in relating anecdotes," 1817, a French word in English, from French raconteur, from raconter "to recount, tell, narrate," from re- (see re-) + Old French aconter "to count, render account" (see account (v.); and compare recount (v.1)). Generally in italics in English until well into 20c. Related: Raconteuse (fem.).