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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. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for tocsin
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Industry has ceased in it; not sounds of the hammer and saw, but of the tocsin and alarm-drum.

    The French Revolution Thomas Carlyle
  • What priest does not know that tocsin of the night, and the start from peaceful slumbers?

    My New Curate P.A. Sheehan
  • All night long the dismal clang of the tocsin had summoned the fighting portion of the population to important points of defense.

    Louis Philippe John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) Abbott
  • Drums can be heard beating the alarm, and the tocsin peals from the churches.

    The Gods are Athirst Anatole France
  • 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
  • But how traverse that town, which the tocsin had already alarmed?

  • Can I sincerely believe that the tocsin will help towards the regeneration of mankind?

    A Girl Among the Anarchists Isabel Meredith
  • "The tocsin, the tocsin—the fire-bell, as I am a gentleman," quoth his gay sub.

  • The Magpie was keeping up a running fire of questions, as the tocsin toiled on with her pencil.

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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