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[duhm-bel] /ˈdʌmˌbɛl/
a gymnastic apparatus consisting of two wooden or metal balls connected by a short bar serving as a handle, used as a weight for exercising.
a stupid person.
Origin of dumbbell
First recorded in 1705-15; dumb + bell1
2. dunce, ignoramus, fool, blockhead, dimwit. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for dumbbell
Historical Examples
  • It's nice to feel she isn't being wasted on some dumbbell, isn't it?

  • I was taken aboard one of their dumbbell ships, and brought here.

    The Secret of the Ninth Planet Donald Allen Wollheim
  • But a woman is at once given away: she look like a dumbbell run over by an express train.

    In Defense of Women H. L. Mencken
  • The next day he calmly chose the seat in front of the dumbbell—and proceeded to write a perfect examination.

    The Plastic Age Percy Marks
  • It was something like a dumbbell, covered with marine growth where it had been above the sand, but fairly smooth under it.

    The Wailing Octopus Harold Leland Goodwin
  • It was the shape of a dumbbell—two spheres joined together by a short middle bar.

    The Secret of the Ninth Planet Donald Allen Wollheim
  • And hanging on patrol over this polar basin were two more of the dumbbell ships.

    The Secret of the Ninth Planet Donald Allen Wollheim
  • Above it, they caught a flicker from the forest of masts and the glint from a dumbbell ship.

    The Secret of the Ninth Planet Donald Allen Wollheim
  • Of unusual shape, both round and flat, so a cross-section looks like a dumbbell with angular ends.

    The Complete Book of Cheese Robert Carlton Brown
British Dictionary definitions for dumbbell


(gymnastics, weightlifting) an exercising weight consisting of a single bar with a heavy ball or disc at either end
a small wooden object shaped like this used in dog training for the dog to retrieve
(slang, mainly US & Canadian) a fool
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for dumbbell

"weighted bar used for exercise," 1711, originally an apparatus like that used to ring a church bell, but without the bell (hence dumb); used for exercise but sometimes also to practice ringing changes. Figurative sense of "blockhead, stupid person" attested by 1918, American English college slang.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for dumbbell



A stupid person; idiot: She's an awful dumb-bell

[1918+; fr dumbbell, a kind of weightlifter's barbell, attested from the 1880s]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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