Definition of bellows in English:


plural noun

  • 1A device with an air bag that emits a stream of air when squeezed together with two handles, used for blowing air into a fire:

    ‘stoking up the fire with the bellows’
    • ‘Half a dozen different Guilds were vying to be the first to get the new machinery to drive the bellows in the smelters, looms and wheels in the textile mills, water pumps, millstones.’
    • ‘Her sole job was to pump the bellows on the furnace to keep it hot.’
    • ‘An inspection of the airbus 321-200 revealed a metal clamp holding bellows to the air conditioning condenser unit was broken.’
    • ‘A box bellows and charcoal fire bring the steel to a bright yellow/white, at which time it's quickly placed on the anvil and struck with careful blows to fuse it into a solid mass.’
    • ‘An electric fan is now used instead of bellows to excite the embers and a compressor drives a spray painter, but other tasks are manual.’
    • ‘A letter dated July 25, 1828, to fellow engineer Timothy Hackworth confirms that Stephenson still was using inefficient bellows to help to power his engines.’
    • ‘The furnaces used locally mined ore, charcoal and hand powered bellows, and evolved into what was known as a ‘high bloomery’ furnace, capable of smelting large amounts of iron.’
    • ‘When dry, any loose smalt was to be brushed off with a feather or blown off with a bellows.’
    • ‘The smithy, with its anvil, fire and bellows, was a place of relentless toil and sweat.’
    • ‘Visitors to an archaeology open day at Rievaulx on Saturday will be invited to pump the bellows to produce a batch of bloom, which can be removed from the furnace with tongs and worked on an anvil.’
    • ‘Relays of men sat for up to 16 hours pumping the bellows in order to get the fire in the furnace up to temperatures of 1200 degrees Celsius in order to make the iron malleable.’
    • ‘These organizations became necessary to pay for the equipment needed for extracting ores at greater depths and to meet the costs of installing furnaces making use of water-powered bellows in smelting processes.’
    • ‘Pulling on the long shaft of the bellows sent a shower of sparks around the forge and disturbed the coating of blackened dust that clung to roof, floor and everything else within.’
    • ‘They blow bellows at them to simulate a strong wind and then light torches to simulate the imagined layer of fire in the sky.’
    • ‘He opened an agricultural museum which included a gigantic pair of bellows, seven or eight feet tall.’
    • ‘Among the latter was the ability to power bellows with steam rather than water, which allowed foundries to move closer to their markets.’
    • ‘The use of steam-driven bellows in blast furnaces helped ironmakers switch over from charcoal (limited in quantity) to coke, which is made from coal, in the smelting of pig iron.’
    1. 1.1 A device similar to a pair of bellows used in a harmonium or small organ.
      • ‘A wind instrument, it has bellows into which compressed air is pumped.’
      • ‘‘We could really do with some of that spirit today,’ he says, squeezing the bellows to emit another mournful wail.’
      • ‘Clavichords were particularly popular with organists because they could practise on them at home instead of in a cold church, and without the need to pay someone to pump the organ bellows.’
      • ‘I wondered what powered it, since it didn't have a bellows like an accordion or pipe organ, and he didn't seem to be blowing into it.’
      • ‘They alternately stretch and squeeze space - stretch and squeeze somewhat like the bellows of an accordion in play.’
      • ‘The Uilleann Pipe: a chanter bagpipe, blown by a bellows pumped under the arm.’
      • ‘It employs a single reed and has a very pure tone with no vibrato although this can be induced by use of the bellows.’
      • ‘The poor starving little church mice had chewed their way through the bellows of the church organ.’
      • ‘When I saw the Kushner play as a student I had a very bad cold, of the kind that makes it difficult to breath without sounding like an organ bellows.’
  • 2An object or device with concertinaed sides to allow it to expand and contract, such as a tube joining a lens to a camera body.

    • ‘There is an internal tube for exhaust gases surrounded by corrugated, multi-layer bellows.’
    • ‘I would set it up, put the black hood over my head and adjust the tilts, swings, bellows and lens, compose the image, and then move on.’
    • ‘More than 70 lots, including a 1905 Sanderson field camera complete with red bellows, will be sold at the Auction Centre.’
    • ‘The bellows moves a valve body in accordance with pressure introduced into the pressure sensing chamber.’
    • ‘We knew we would have to magnify the drop for final measurements, so we used a medium-format camera and 120-millimeter macro lens on a bellows.’
    • ‘Such calculations work out very neatly if you always double your focal length, but get a bit more complicated for odd bellows or lens extensions.’
    • ‘The pump steadily delivers medication using a bellows device or through radio signals.’
    • ‘A sensor system placed in the vehicle's front bumper sends a signal to two steel bellows, which lift the rear part of the hood, The sensor is so accurate that it can differentiate between a lamp post and a human leg.’
    • ‘The anesthesia care provider must use a latex-free breathing circuit with plastic mask and bag, and the ventilator bellows must be nonlatex.’
    • ‘On two occasions, cases project into the central street, like abstractions of antique bellows cameras.’


Middle English: probably from Old English belga, plural of belig (see belly), used as a shortened form of earlier blǣstbelig ‘blowing bag’.