Some people imagine that the expression should be “all tolled” as if items were being ticked off to the tolling of a bell, or involved the paying of a toll; but in fact this goes back to an old meaning of “tell”: “to count.” You could “tell over” your beads if you were counting them in a rosary. “All told” means “all counted.”

This older meaning of “tell” is the reason that people who count money out behind bank windows are called “tellers.”

Return to list of errors

book cover

Read about the book.