[ bel ]
See synonyms for bell on
  1. a hollow instrument of cast metal, typically cup-shaped with a flaring mouth, suspended from the vertex and rung by the strokes of a clapper, hammer, or the like.

  2. the stroke or sound of such an instrument: We rose at the bell.

  1. anything in the form of a bell.

  2. the large end of a funnel, or the end of a pipe, tube, or any musical wind instrument, when its edge is turned out and enlarged.

  3. Architecture. the underlying part of a foliated capital.

  4. Nautical.

    • any of the half-hour units of nautical time rung on the bell of a ship.

    • each individual ring of the bell, counted with others to reckon the time: It is now four bells.

    • a signal on the telegraph of a large power vessel, made between the navigating officers and the engineer.

  5. Botany. the bell-shaped corolla of a flower.

  6. Metallurgy. a conical lid that seals the top of a blast furnace and lowers to admit a charge.

verb (used with object)
  1. to cause to swell or expand like a bell (often followed by out): Belling out the tubes will permit a freer passage of air.

  2. to put a bell on: Should we bell the wreath so we'll know when he opens the front door?

  1. British Informal. to telephone: If I have time, I’ll bell you from the office.

verb (used without object)
  1. to take or have the form of a bell.

  2. Botany. to produce bells; be in bell (said of hops when the seed vessels are forming).

Idioms about bell

  1. bell the cat. cat (def. 19).

  2. ring a bell, to evoke a memory, especially a vague or partial recollection; remind one of something: His name rings a bell but I can't remember him.

  1. ring someone's bell,

    • to deliver a serious blow to the head.

    • to be or provide what is desired, enjoyed, or preferred by someone:Historical fiction just doesn't ring my bell.

    • Slang. to arouse sexually or bring someone to orgasm.

  2. get/have one's bell rung,

    • to receive a serious blow to the head:He'd had his bell rung one too many times playing professional sports.

    • to be aroused sexually or be brought to orgasm.

  3. ring the bell,

    • to win; take the prize:The camera lingered on the face of the coach as it registered that her team had at last rung the bell.

    • to succeed with or win over people:Despite its promising start, the company has not yet designed a product that rings the bell.

  4. saved by the bell,

    • (of a boxer) saved from a knockout by the ringing of a gong signaling the end of a round.

    • (of any person) spared from anticipated trouble by some extraneous event.

  5. with bells on, Informal. eagerly; ready to enjoy oneself: Just say when, and we'll be there with bells on.

Origin of bell

First recorded before 1000; Middle English, Old English belle; cognate with Dutch bel; derivative of bell2

Other words from bell

  • bell-less, adjective

Words Nearby bell

Other definitions for bell (2 of 3)

[ bel ]

verb (used with or without object)
  1. to bellow like a stag in rutting time.

  2. to bay, as a hunting dog.

  1. the cry of a rutting stag or hunting dog.

Origin of bell

First recorded before 1000; Middle English bellen, Old English bellan “to roar”; cognate with Old High German bellan, German bellen “to bark,” Middle Dutch bellen, belen, Old Norse belja; see bellow, belch

Other definitions for Bell (3 of 3)

[ bel ]

  1. Ac·ton [ak-tuhn], /ˈæk tən/, pen name of Anne Brontë.

  2. Alexander Graham, 1847–1922, U.S. scientist, born in Scotland: inventor of the telephone.

  1. (Arthur) Clive (Howard), 1881–1964, English critic of literature and art.

  2. Cur·rer [kur-er], /ˈkɜr ər/, pen name of Charlotte Brontë.

  3. Ellis, pen name of Emily Brontë.

  4. James Thomas "Cool Papa", 1903–91, U.S. baseball player, a Negro Leagues outfielder noted for his speed.

  5. John, 1797–1869, U.S. political leader: Speaker of the House 1834–35.

  6. a city in SW California, near Los Angeles. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use bell in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for bell (1 of 3)


/ (bɛl) /

  1. a hollow, usually metal, cup-shaped instrument that emits a musical ringing sound when struck, often by a clapper hanging inside it

  2. the sound made by such an instrument or device, as for showing the hours or marking the beginning or end of a period of time

  1. an electrical device that rings or buzzes as a signal

  2. the bowl-shaped termination of the tube of certain musical wind instruments, such as the trumpet or oboe

  3. any musical percussion instrument emitting a ringing tone, such as a glockenspiel, one of a set of hand bells, etc: Compare chime 1 (def. 3)

  4. nautical a signal rung on a ship's bell to count the number of half-hour intervals during each of six four-hour watches reckoned from midnight. Thus, one bell may signify 12.30, 4.30, or 8.30 a.m. or p.m

  5. biology a structure resembling a bell in shape, such as the corolla of certain flowers or the body of a jellyfish

  6. British slang a telephone call (esp in the phrase give someone a bell)

  7. beat seven bells out of or knock seven bells out of British informal to give a severe beating to

  8. bell, book, and candle

    • instruments used formerly in excommunications and other ecclesiastical acts

    • informal the solemn ritual ratification of such acts

  9. ring a bell to sound familiar; recall to the mind something previously experienced, esp indistinctly

  10. sound as a bell in perfect condition

  11. the bells the ringing of bells, in a church or other public building, at midnight on December 31st, symbolizing the beginning of a new year

  1. to be or cause to be shaped like a bell

  2. (tr) to attach a bell or bells to

  1. bell the cat to undertake a dangerous mission

Origin of bell

Old English belle; related to Old Norse bjalla, Middle Low German bell; see bell ²

British Dictionary definitions for bell (2 of 3)


/ (bɛl) /

  1. a bellowing or baying cry, esp that of a hound or a male deer in rut

  1. to utter (such a cry)

Origin of bell

Old English bellan; related to Old Norse belja to bellow, Old High German bellan to roar, Sanskrit bhāsate he talks; see bellow

British Dictionary definitions for Bell (3 of 3)


/ (bɛl) /

  1. Acton, Currer (ˈkʌrə), and Ellis . pen names of the sisters Anne, Charlotte, and Emily Brontë: See Brontë

  2. Alexander Graham . 1847–1922, US scientist, born in Scotland, who invented the telephone (1876)

  1. Sir Francis Henry Dillon . 1851–1936, New Zealand statesman; prime minister of New Zealand (1925)

  2. Gertrude (Margaret Lowthian). 1868–1926, British traveller, writer, and diplomat; secretary to the British High Commissioner in Baghdad (1917–26)

  3. Joshua. born 1967, US violinist

  4. Dame (Susan) Jocelyn, married name Jocelyn Burnell, born 1943, British radio astronomer, who discovered the first pulsar

  5. Vanessa, original name Vanessa Stephen . 1879–1961, British painter; a member of the Bloomsbury group, sister of Virginia Woolf and wife of the art critic Clive Bell (1881–1964)

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

Scientific definitions for Bell


[ bĕl ]

  1. Scottish-born American scientist and inventor whose lifelong interest in the education of deaf people led him to conceive the idea of transmitting speech by electric waves. In 1876 his experiments with a telegraph resulted in his invention of the telephone. He later produced the first successful sound recorder, an early hearing aid, and many other devices.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Other Idioms and Phrases with bell


In addition to the idiom beginning with bell

  • bell the cat, who will

also see:

  • clear as a bell
  • ring a bell
  • saved by the bell
  • sound as a bell
  • with bells on

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.