Definition of dumbbell in English:



  • 1A short bar with a weight at each end, used typically in pairs for exercise or muscle-building.

    • ‘Acupressure treatment aids such as balls, dumb-bells and small cubes made of wood, believed to help improve blood circulation, are on offer for prices ranging from Rs.20 onwards.’
    • ‘Not too much imagery as such, just a hint of rawness with use of dumb-bells and sledgehammer to break the monotonous nature of gun-shot violence.’
    • ‘Cricket fans will be disappointed to see cricket admissions also excluded from the list, although footballs and dumb-bells make an entrance.’
    • ‘Do the move with 5-to 10-pound dumb-bells in each hand.’
    • ‘All candidates will be following a special exercise programme, which involves using the rowing machine and stretching with dumb-bells.’
    • ‘The ‘gymnasium’ you refer to is nothing more than a few dumb-bells under a tin shed.’
    • ‘A typical gymnasium in the city, say, just five years ago, would have been nothing more than a large shed with a huge pile of assorted metal weight-plates and dumb-bells in a corner.’
    • ‘Any line through the dumb-bell's centre of gravity, perpendicular to the main axis, is also an axis of rotation.’
    • ‘For example, rather than a heavy barbell squat, just use light dumb-bells or a ball against the wall.’
    • ‘Squats, biceps curls, triceps extensions and even overhead presses with dumb-bells are all good candidates for unilateral moves.’
    • ‘If your biceps feel absolutely fantastic, grab some heavy dumb-bells and pound them.’
    • ‘Police have carried out tests on five bullets fired into Gray as he stopped to remove dumb-bells.’
    • ‘Objects, including a snooker cue, and a dumb-bell were thrown from a window, and the pistol was pointed at officers.’
    • ‘You'll need a low- and high-cable-pulley machine with a straight bar attachment, a flat bench and a set of dumb-bells.’
    • ‘Hold dumb-bells under your legs with your palms facing each other and your elbows slightly bent.’
    • ‘If a kid of six or seven is pulling himself or herself up and swinging on bars, this is the equivalent of lifting 35 lb or 40 lb, but nobody in their right mind would give a 35 lb dumb-bell to a child.’
    1. 1.1[as modifier]Shaped like a dumbbell.
      ‘a dumbbell molecule’
      • ‘In the case of the large uranium nucleus it could even wobble into a dumb-bell shape, from which it might occasionally split into two distinct smaller nuclei of slightly unequal size.’
      • ‘Sometimes, dumb-bell or ring-shaped mitochondria occur but with no evidence of associated membrane degeneration.’
      • ‘The cup-marked stone shown below, in the Sma’ Glen, near Crieff, Perthshire, Scotland, is situated in a large man-made concave-shaped amphitheatre in the hills, and has a prominent dumb-bell shaped cup-mark on its surface.’
  • 2North American informal A stupid person.

    • ‘She was really asleep in the car and David, the dumb-bell hadn't woken her up yet.’
    idiot, ass, halfwit, nincompoop, blockhead, buffoon, dunce, dolt, ignoramus, cretin, imbecile, dullard, moron, simpleton, clod
    View synonyms


Early 18th century: originally denoting an apparatus similar to that used to ring a church bell (but without the bell, so noiseless or “dumb”); dumbbell (dating from the 1920s) is an extended use by association with dumb stupid.