Definition of dumbbell in US English:



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

    • ‘Squats, biceps curls, triceps extensions and even overhead presses with dumb-bells are all good candidates for unilateral moves.’
    • ‘Cricket fans will be disappointed to see cricket admissions also excluded from the list, although footballs and dumb-bells make an entrance.’
    • ‘You'll need a low- and high-cable-pulley machine with a straight bar attachment, a flat bench and a set of dumb-bells.’
    • ‘For example, rather than a heavy barbell squat, just use light dumb-bells or a ball against the wall.’
    • ‘Objects, including a snooker cue, and a dumb-bell were thrown from a window, and the pistol was pointed at officers.’
    • ‘Hold dumb-bells under your legs with your palms facing each other and your elbows slightly bent.’
    • ‘All candidates will be following a special exercise programme, which involves using the rowing machine and stretching with dumb-bells.’
    • ‘Any line through the dumb-bell's centre of gravity, perpendicular to the main axis, is also an axis of rotation.’
    • ‘Police have carried out tests on five bullets fired into Gray as he stopped to remove dumb-bells.’
    • ‘Do the move with 5-to 10-pound dumb-bells in each hand.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The ‘gymnasium’ you refer to is nothing more than a few dumb-bells under a tin shed.’
    • ‘If your biceps feel absolutely fantastic, grab some heavy dumb-bells and pound them.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    1. 1.1as modifier Shaped like a dumbbell.
      ‘a dumbbell molecule’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
  • 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 (sense 2) (dating from the 1920s) is an extended use by association with dumb ‘stupid’.