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[tok-sin] /ˈtɒk sɪn/
a signal, especially of alarm, sounded on a bell or bells.
a bell used to sound an alarm.
Origin of tocsin
1580-90; < Middle French < Provençal tocasenh literally, (it) strikes (the) bell, equivalent to toca, 3rd singular present of tocar to strike, touch + senh bell, sign Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for tocsin
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The tocsin rang impatiently, but other help (if that were any) there was none.

    A Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens
  • Her motto, "Truth for authority and not authority for truth," is still the tocsin of reform.

  • What priest does not know that tocsin of the night, and the start from peaceful slumbers?

    My New Curate P.A. Sheehan
  • Immediately he dreamt that he heard the tocsin and took part in the events of June, 1848.

    Dreams Henri Bergson
  • Drums can be heard beating the alarm, and the tocsin peals from the churches.

    The Gods are Athirst Anatole France
  • The tocsin sounded in the Senate was heard in the lower house.

    The Story of a Mine Bret Harte
  • It was the tocsin of their doom, of the downfall of their establishments, and the ruin of their work.

    Glimpses of Three Coasts Helen Hunt Jackson
  • On the 15th of October, at six in the morning, the tocsin was sounded in Paris.

    Old and New Paris, v. 2 Henry Sutherland Edwards
  • The tocsin, says a journal of the period, was heard on all sides.

    Old and New Paris, v. 2 Henry Sutherland Edwards
British Dictionary definitions for tocsin


an alarm or warning signal, esp one sounded on a bell
an alarm bell
Word Origin
C16: from French, from Old French toquassen, from Old Provençal tocasenh, from tocar to touch + senh bell, from Latin signum
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 tocsin

"alarm bell," 1580s, from Middle French toquassen "an alarm bell, the ringing of an alarm bell" (late 14c.), from Old Provençal tocasenh, from tocar "to strike" (from Vulgar Latin *toccare "strike a bell;" see touch) + senh "bell, bell note," from Late Latin signum "bell, ringing of a bell," in Latin "mark, signal." The current English spelling is from 1794, adopted from modern French.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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