Main definitions of bell in English

: bell1Bell2bell3

bell1

noun

  • 1A hollow metal object, typically in the shape of a deep inverted cup widening at the lip, that sounds a clear musical note when struck, especially by means of a clapper inside:

    ‘the church bells tolled’
    ‘a bell tinkled as he went in the shop’
    [as modifier] ‘the bell chamber of the church spire’
    • ‘Those clanging bells reminded me of another vendor who used to make similar rounds in the neighbourhood.’
    • ‘It wasn't a bright sound like most bells, but more hollow and deep.’
    • ‘At noon the bell on the guardhouse tower and several church bells began tolling for two hours.’
    • ‘Three hundred and forty years earlier another bell ringer described his fear that the bell or the church tower would fall on top of him.’
    • ‘At midnight, the bells would chime across the city, town or village.’
    • ‘Suddenly, the sound of clear bells came bouncing up the sides of the mountain ranges from the town by the river below.’
    • ‘As the preacher crossed himself, the church bell began to toll.’
    • ‘The whole is accompanied by a ghostly, premonitory sound of deep tolling bells.’
    • ‘It had a steepled roof with a weathervane at the top of the steeple and a brass bell tucked within the open wooden tower.’
    • ‘The soldier's fiancé had climbed into the belfry and clung to the great clapper of the bell to prevent it from striking.’
    • ‘Winter night closed in around me and I heard the faint sound of church bells chiming the hour.’
    • ‘The story goes that a large bell was tolled whenever the soup was prepared.’
    • ‘He often chimed the bells himself before service.’
    • ‘All of a sudden, the bell sounds, rather alarmingly.’
    • ‘A bell tolled one long note of mourning as she realised this meant farewell not only to her father, but to her mother as well.’
    • ‘Nine enormous, new bronze bells are on their way to Paris to give the medieval Notre Dame Cathedral a more modern sound.’
    • ‘In all cases, the shape of the bell is critical in projecting the sound, giving it much of its characteristic tone-colour and stabilizing its pitch.’
    • ‘Some 300 others stood outside, laying wreaths at the old iron gates where a bell ringer tolled sorrowful notes from a small bell.’
    • ‘He partook of a leisurely breakfast, and set off to the sound of church bells in the clear air.’
    • ‘Suddenly, the serenity is pierced by the distinct tone of a ringing bell.’
    chime, gong, alarm
    peal, knell, toll
    signal, warning, alert
    tocsin
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A device that includes or sounds like a bell, used to give a signal or warning:
      ‘a bicycle bell’
      • ‘It is in very good condition, and has a very loud bell.’
      • ‘The older, more tired man rings the bell to signal the bus to stop.’
      • ‘When the school bell rang, she snuck quickly out and made her way to the rack where her bicycle waited.’
      • ‘A man on a bicycle rode by, ringing his bell to signal people to move.’
      • ‘The warning bell rang signaling two minutes before their next class.’
      • ‘After a few minutes of listening to the mindless chatter of my peers, the bell rang, signaling the movement of the student body to first period.’
      • ‘When we walked in, the door hit a charming brass bell and it made a soft ‘ding’.’
      • ‘But when she finally gained the front doors, she discovered neither bell nor knocker.’
      • ‘Then the bell rang, signaling it was time to get to class.’
      • ‘Carter throws me a menacing look, but is unable to follow up with a threatening comment, because the bell has just rung.’
      • ‘The warning bell rang, so I parted ways with Ivy, and went to my class.’
      • ‘Five seconds into the take-off a warning bell sounds to inform the captain that there is a problem with the number two engine and that it is on fire.’
      • ‘Having just begun a fearsome maths test I still remember the surge of relief when the electric bell sounded its continuous warning.’
      • ‘She had pressed the bell indicating that she wanted the bus to halt at the next stop where she would disembark.’
      • ‘As the seventh hour dismissal bell sounded, I remained in my desk.’
      • ‘The final bell has just rung and we're free, free to party, sleep, or study.’
      • ‘The warning bell for dinner rang, signaling for the household to start getting ready for dinner.’
      • ‘Just as I was about to answer, the shrill school bell sounded throughout the halls.’
      • ‘He strikes the bike bell, and rolls away, the sound of the squeaky wheel dominating.’
      • ‘We were all in the process of changing when a loud, shrill bell sounded, warning us of a fire.’
    2. 1.2the bell (in boxing and other sports) a bell rung to mark the start or end of a round:
      ‘they were dragged off each other at the final bell’
      • ‘At the bell for round one, he came out fast and was up on his toes circling to the left nonstop.’
      • ‘Sampson mauled Johnson the entire last half of the second round and the corner threw in the towel at the bell for round three.’
      • ‘By the fifth round, he had a point deducted for hitting after the bell.’
      • ‘Even at the bell to start the round she stood for a second and looked in disbelief at her coach.’
      • ‘He could barely contain himself when his opponent could not answer the bell for the seventh.’
      • ‘He was still landing those bruising jabs at the bell in his going away triumph.’
      • ‘He struggled to his corner as the bell had already ended the round.’
      • ‘He won the world heavyweight title at the age of 22 when his opponent was unable to answer the bell for the seventh round.’
      • ‘Barkley charged out of his corner at the bell for the third round and backed Hearns into a corner.’
      • ‘Right before the bell for the first round the anticipation was high.’
      • ‘The referee stepped between them thinking he heard the bell ending the round.’
      • ‘Two minutes after the bell for round one, Liston was the new undisputed champ.’
      • ‘Just as the bell ended the fifteenth round, Frazier put his hands up and yelled something at Ali.’
      • ‘Harrison could well have finished it but the bell intervened to his opponent's relief.’
      • ‘To their credit, the boys answered the bell for round two, but it didn't last long.’
      • ‘Johnson needed the judges help too, because there was no way the fight would end between first and final bell.’
      • ‘At the bell, he attacked and kept firing until the ref called a halt.’
      • ‘As the round ended, both fighters got toe-to-toe and exchanged savage blows until and after the bell.’
      • ‘Referee Tony Perez reached five in the count and the bell couldn't save Ellis.’
      • ‘He looked as if he was going to eke out another methodical round until the two fighters clashed heads just seconds before the bell.’
  • 2A bell-shaped object or part of something.

    1. 2.1 The end of a trumpet or other brass instrument:
      ‘the acoustic properties of a trumpet's bell’
      • ‘Researchers in Germany have been looking carefully at the after glow of the big bang and have decided that the universe is shaped like a trumpet bell.’
      • ‘The bell of the trumpet is decorated with a garland bearing the maker's name and the place where the instrument was made.’
      • ‘He made me an unbelievable trumpet with carvings and designs and a big double bell, like a space-age trumpet.’
    2. 2.2Botany The corolla of a bell-shaped flower:
      ‘a flower with small pale blue bells’
      • ‘Flowers are borne on long thin stalks - tiny white bells that do not do any justice to the lovely plant.’
      • ‘The citron yellow or red tinged flowers are also worth having, hanging bells on tall stalks that dance in the wind and give way to upright seed heads for autumn interest.’
      • ‘Salvia confertiflora is a half-hardy salvia with delicate orange bells along its stem.’
      • ‘Great black bees make their way from the bell of one flower to the petals of the next.’
      • ‘A few warm days and they will be growing rapidly, the flowers opening to reveal the familiar white bells with their crisp green markings.’
    3. 2.3Zoology The umbrella of a jellyfish:
      ‘the tiny jellyfish has a bell measuring five to ten millimetres wide’
  • 3bellsA musical instrument consisting of a set of metal tubes of different lengths, suspended in a frame and played by being struck with a hammer.

    Also called tubular bells
    • ‘He planted the two harps in front of the orchestra, on either side of his rostrum, and banished bells and drums to the unseen backstage.’
    • ‘This arrangement demands an extremely colourful orchestra that includes piccolo, four horns, harp, orchestral bells, and tam-tam.’
    • ‘The bells in the final movement are much more forward and eerie.’
    • ‘Working with sampled bells, gongs and prepared piano, he then uses electronic equipment to process this first layer and continues to build up his compositions.’
    • ‘The overture is similar to its more illustrious counterpart from Tchiakovsky and it also has bells in its final moments.’
  • 4Nautical
    (preceded by a numeral) the time as indicated every half hour of a watch by the striking of the ship's bell one to eight times:

    ‘at five bells in the forenoon of June 11’
    • ‘Eight bells brought him back from the run before the wind.’
    • ‘Hornblower left the first watch at four bells, entered the cabin, and sat writing in the log by the light of a single candle and the ceiling lantern.’
    • ‘The bell tolled the last of eight bells in the afternoon on Dolphin.’

verb

  • 1[with object] Provide with a bell or bells:

    ‘animals in gaudy belled harnesses’
    • ‘He paled below his silly, belled jester's hat.’
    • ‘He tilted his head, his belled hat jingling faintly, when the king just sputtered, red-faced, instead of answering his question.’
    • ‘She readjusted her jingling belled hat.’
    • ‘Oh yes, and health inspectors should be belled like lepers.’
  • 2[no object] Make a ringing sound likened to that of a bell:

    ‘the organ was belling away’
    1. 2.1British informal [with object] Telephone (someone):
      ‘no problem, I'll bell her tomorrow’
      • ‘She belled me tonight to see if you girls have any advice.’
      • ‘I'll bell you or you bell me tonight about arrangements for tomorrow.’
  • 3[no object] Spread outwards like the lip of a bell:

    ‘her shirt belled out behind’
    • ‘She looked at it again, it was black and sleek and pretty, and it belled out around her a little above her knees.’
    • ‘His legs donned somewhat baggy khaki pants and a light blue button down shirt that belled out at his wrists.’
    • ‘She wore a tight black velvet shirt with a low neck and long sleeves that belled out.’
    • ‘There was a lower neck line with blue lace and belled sleeves.’
    • ‘Reaching over to fix the long, belled sleeves of the dress, Betty smiled warmly.’
    • ‘The sleeves were long and belled out slightly at the wrists.’
    • ‘The top was very tight fitting, with a skirt that belled out at the waist.’
    • ‘A maroon, silk ribbon tied right below her elbow where more sheer fabric belled out right above her wrist.’
    • ‘It had a low cut V-neck, and the sleeves belled out into dramatic triangular petals.’
    • ‘Eventually, it creaked to a juddering, shrieking stop and a huge door, rust-pitted, streaked with red and belled outwards with age ground slowly aside.’
    • ‘Her green dress belled out around her with the speed of his dancing, and she felt like magic…’
    • ‘well if not a peasant top has belled sleeves and nothing goes on the shoulders or around the neck.’
    • ‘Taña paints and teaches the local girls how to bell the bottoms of their pants.’
    • ‘The dress was very elegant with long, belled sleeves and a golden rope for a belt.’
    • ‘At the end he found a small slot that belled out above a sandy floor - and an absence of footprints.’
    • ‘Although I couldn't move my head, I knew that the walls of the rift belled out beneath me and narrowed above, forming the tightest part of the rift.’
    • ‘The sleeves were belled, and it all sparkled as if enchanted.’
    • ‘He was wearing a red V-neck shirt with long sleeves that belled out near the hands, white jeans, and black slip-on shoes with thick white socks.’
    • ‘Adjust the expander die to bell the mouth just enough to allow a bullet to start cleanly and case life will be extended considerably.’
    • ‘It had a low neckline and a skirt that was slightly belled.’

Phrases

  • bell the cat

    • Take the danger of a shared enterprise upon oneself.

      • ‘But the burning question is: who will bell the cat?’
      • ‘Warner is to be lauded for his courage to bell the cat, albeit at the eleventh hour, and close this unfortunate chapter in the country's footballing history, by replacing St Clair.’
      • ‘No community is likely to bell the cat by making gratuitous concessions on this issue.’
      • ‘Though the industry had been deliberating at length over the crisis for long, they failed to evolve a consensus and ultimately the exhibitors had to step in to bell the cat.’
      • ‘Politicians should be brave enough to bell the cat and join forces to tackle the national task.’
      • ‘I think the idea of approaching him one on one is good in terms of it being less likely to arouse defensiveness, although that makes one of you guys the person who has to bell the cat.’
      • ‘The real challenge is deciding whose job it is to bell the cat.’
      • ‘It has become more of a question of who is to bell the cat.’
      • ‘His government should convince all political parties that it is time to bell the cat to implement the one-child norm for one and all.’
      • ‘But then someone has to bell the cat and the Metro Rail has to become a reality.’
  • bells and whistles

    • informal Attractive additional features or trimmings:

      ‘the company is putting bells and whistles on its notebook computer’
      • ‘The whole thing fizzes with furious energy and is more satisfying than plenty of albums with more technical bells and whistles.’
      • ‘If you can live without the latest bells and whistles, then used equipment may be for you.’
      • ‘A young friend of mine got his first autofocus camera the other day - a fairly swish Canon, with quite a few of the bells and whistles.’
      • ‘It has enough bells and whistles to satiate special effects fans, but not too many to cheapen the overall film.’
      • ‘It's got so many bells and whistles, it's taking time for me to get used to using it.’
      • ‘Now most high-end computers cost only two thousand dollars, and these computers have all the bells and whistles.’
      • ‘They want an integrated system with all the bells and whistles of high-end storage as standard features.’
      • ‘Cut out all the bells and whistles and stick to simple architecture.’
      • ‘You'd think we'd have learnt how all the bells and whistles on our phones worked after that wouldn't you?’
      • ‘I'm very suspicious of websites that confront you with bells and whistles and all manner of cunning design.’
  • be saved by the bell

    • 1(in boxing and other sports) be saved from being counted out by the ringing of the bell at the end of a round.

      • ‘With 25 seconds to go to the end of the round Cantwell suddenly found himself on his knees only to be saved by the bell on that occasion.’
      • ‘He was saved by the bell from a fourth round knock-out.’
      • ‘But Clay was saved by the bell and went on to triumph over Cooper.’
      • ‘Willard had been saved by the bell at the count of seven.’
      • ‘He was saved by the bell in rounds five, six and seven.’
      • ‘The visitor, whose legs were buckled by a left hook to the side of the head, was in fact saved by the bell in the first round.’
      • ‘He was knocked down twice in the ninth round and was saved by the bell.’
      • ‘In the ninth round the champion was saved by the bell.’
      • ‘He went down two more times in the first round and was saved by the bell.’
      • ‘Thompson felled Sellers twice in their amazing slug-fest, and the Yank was saved by the bell on both occasions.’
      1. 1.1Escape from a difficult situation narrowly or by an unexpected intervention.
        • ‘They were saved by the bell when a courtly looking man, most likely a bodyguard, showed up out of nowhere, went up to the podium, and promptly announced that there was a bomb threat on the building.’
        • ‘As with most other remarkable escapes, Morgan is saved by the bell.’
        • ‘I was saved by the bell and reached for salvation before anyone else dreamed of moving - they were trying to wake up from their peaceful slumber.’
        • ‘I had the sense that any moment another question would befall me - but I was saved by the bell.’
  • (as) clear (or sound) as a bell

    • Perfectly clear (or sound):

      ‘Aunt Nora's words came clear as a bell’
      • ‘When I got up the next morning, the dream was still clear as a bell, and it continues to stay with me until this day.’
      • ‘Then Rebecca moved through the audience to sing with a voice as clear as a bell.’
      • ‘It switches between being clear as a bell, and being murky and distant.’
      • ‘The presentation here is distortion free and clear as a bell.’
      • ‘I can still remember the day she died as clear as a bell.’
      • ‘‘Hi, this is Roger,’ said my buddy Roger - his voice clear as a bell on the answer phone.’
      • ‘He said: ‘I still remember the day as clear as a bell.’’
      • ‘Here I was speaking to a close friend of my uncle's for the first time ever, who although now in his 80s was as clear as a bell in his recounting of the old days.’
      • ‘‘The pleasure's all mine,’ said the voice, which was rather high but smooth and rang out clear as a bell.’
      • ‘The soundtrack is clear of any major hiss or distortion with all aspects of the dialogue, effects, and music clear as a bell.’
      distinct, bell-like, as clear as a bell, clarion, pure
      View synonyms
  • give someone a bell

    • informal Telephone someone:

      ‘tell him to give me a bell at the garage’
      • ‘For more info, give Julia Glass a bell on 045 403396.’
      • ‘So I bought a couple of beers on my way into Newtown, I gave Sandy a bell to see what was up, as I thought being woken up with a beer would be nice.’
      • ‘A person with an interest in the shopping centre project at the time gave us a bell to tell us his memory of the background to the matter of the bridge.’
      • ‘If you want the address of a chiropractor, give me a bell.’
      • ‘He gave us a bell this afternoon to raise a few problems.’
      • ‘I'm just giving you a bell to see if you've got anything or not.’
      • ‘I gave her a bell there and she seems rather too calm.’
      • ‘So Mums and Dads, Grannies and Granddads give us a bell and let us know who is about and we wont leave anyone out.’
      • ‘‘Well if you ever want someone to play keyboards give us a bell,’ he said.’
      • ‘Just give him a bell and get him over, tell him I thought it was important, ok?’
  • ring a bell

    • informal Sound vaguely familiar:

      ‘the name rings a bell’
      • ‘If Blackwell's name doesn't ring a bell with you, that's understandable.’
      • ‘If that name doesn't ring a bell, you're not alone.’
      • ‘The name rings a bell, but I can't put my finger on why.’
      • ‘If these names ring a bell and you can supply further information please contact us.’
      • ‘One of the country's legendary tenor saxophone players, his name might not ring a bell for those who are not in tune with Jazz in India, but he deserves to be remembered.’
      • ‘That girl's name rang a bell, but she couldn't remember where from.’
      • ‘The name rang a bell, though she couldn't quite place it.’
      • ‘While her name might not ring a bell in the minds of most people, the festival will screen a ‘snippet’ from her body of work titled ‘Harlequin’.’
      • ‘While her name might not ring a bell, her songs definitely do.’
      • ‘If the name rings a bell, it is because he might have helped you buy a book, film or album.’
  • with bells on

    • informal Enthusiastically:

      ‘everybody's waiting for you with bells on’
      • ‘Also, he's coming to town, again, on the 13 th, and I will be there with bells on.’
      • ‘‘I'll be there with bells on,’ Aidan said as he slid out of the car.’
      • ‘Any sane New York politician who can walk or crawl into the Plaza will be there with bells on, soaking up the good press.’
      • ‘The audience is likely to show up for ‘A Christmas Classique,’ by pianist Lorie Line and her pop chamber orchestra, with bells on.’
      • ‘They're doing it with bells on.’
      • ‘I'll be there with bells on, I promise - but what about the game?’
      • ‘Just let me know when you're ready, and I'll be there with bells on.’
      • ‘I mean, even if she didn't feel well, she would be there with bells on.’
      • ‘I'll be there with bells on, though that might make us a little conspicuous.’
      • ‘Bradley said, standing up, ‘I'm waiting with bells on, Mr. Lauderdale, so why don't you hit me?’

Origin

Old English belle, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch bel, and perhaps to bell.

Pronunciation:

bell

/bɛl/

Main definitions of bell in English

: bell1Bell2bell3

Bell2

proper noun

  • Currer, Ellis, and Acton, the pseudonyms used by Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë.

Main definitions of bell in English

: bell1Bell2bell3

bell3

noun

  • The characteristic cry of a stag or buck at rutting time.

    • ‘We organise evening visits to the animal reserve on these two special weekends to listen to the stag's bell and the clashing of the antlers as the animals fight.’
    • ‘Our guides will have you listen to the bell of the stag at the mating season or observe the animals from watch towers.’

verb

[NO OBJECT]
  • (of a stag or buck) make a cry at rutting time.

    • ‘My very earliest memories include playing beneath the trees and listening to the stags belling in the dusk.’
    • ‘The wood in the half-light waking at daybreak to the belling of stags that bursts into barks.’
    • ‘Just then a stag belled loudly.’
    • ‘During the rut in October and November you can hear the stags belling or roaring.’
    • ‘My very earliest memories are of picnics with my mother beneath the great trees in Richmond Park in London, of red deer stags belling in rut, of lightning and thunder.’

Origin

Old English bellan ‘to bellow’, of Germanic origin; related to German bellen to bark, bray, and perhaps also to bell.

Pronunciation:

bell

/bɛl/