verb (used with object)

to cause to swell or expand like a bell (often followed by out): Belling out the tubes will permit a freer passage of air.
to put a bell on.

verb (used without object)

to take or have the form of a bell.
Botany. to produce bells; be in bell (said of hops when the seed vessels are forming).


    bell the cat. cat(def 19).
    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.
    ring someone's bell,
    1. to provide what is desired; be satisfactory or successful: This new book just doesn't ring my bell.
    2. arouse sexually or bring someone to orgasm.
    Also ring the bell.
    saved by the bell,
    1. (of a boxer) saved from a knockout by the ringing of a gong signaling the end of a round.
    2. (of any person) spared from anticipated trouble by some extraneous event.
    with bells on, Informal. eagerly; ready to enjoy oneself: Just say when, and we'll be there with bells on.

Origin of bell

before 1000; Middle English, Old English belle; cognate with Dutch bel; derivative of bell2
Related formsbell-less, adjective



verb (used with or without object)

to bellow like a stag in rutting time.
to bay, as a hunting dog.


the cry of a rutting stag or hunting dog.

Origin of bell

1275–1325; 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; akin to Lithuanian bal̃sas voice, Sanskrit bhaṣ- bark, bhāṣ- speak. See bellow, belch




Ac·ton [ak-tuh n] /ˈæk tən/, pen name of Anne Brontë.
Alexander Graham,1847–1922, U.S. scientist, born in Scotland: inventor of the telephone.
(Arthur) Clive (Howard),1881–1964, English critic of literature and art.
Cur·rer [kur-er] /ˈkɜr ər/, pen name of Charlotte Brontë.
Ellis, pen name of Emily Brontë.
James ThomasCool Papa, 1903–91, U.S. baseball player, a Negro Leagues outfielder noted for his speed.
John,1797–1869, U.S. political leader: Speaker of the House 1834–35.
a city in SW California, near Los Angeles. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for bell

Contemporary Examples of bell

Historical Examples of bell

  • When he heard him ring the bell on the second floor, an uneasy expression came over his face.

    The Goose Man

    Jacob Wassermann

  • He said the portrait of Mrs Housman was Bell's chef-d'oeuvre.

    Passing By

    Maurice Baring

  • The table was all set and Bridget was just going to ring the bell, but the monkey didn't wait for her.

  • Quickly she touched a bell, and in the next instant the coach had stopped and the footman was at the open door.

  • She rang the bell and requested a room immediately, as she wanted to get ready for afternoon service.

    At Home And Abroad

    Margaret Fuller Ossoli

British Dictionary definitions for bell




a hollow, usually metal, cup-shaped instrument that emits a musical ringing sound when struck, often by a clapper hanging inside it
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
an electrical device that rings or buzzes as a signal
the bowl-shaped termination of the tube of certain musical wind instruments, such as the trumpet or oboe
any musical percussion instrument emitting a ringing tone, such as a glockenspiel, one of a set of hand bells, etcCompare chime 1 (def. 3)
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
biology a structure resembling a bell in shape, such as the corolla of certain flowers or the body of a jellyfish
British slang a telephone call (esp in the phrase give someone a bell)
beat seven bells out of or knock seven bells out of British informal to give a severe beating to
bell, book, and candle
  1. instruments used formerly in excommunications and other ecclesiastical acts
  2. informalthe solemn ritual ratification of such acts
ring a bell to sound familiar; recall to the mind something previously experienced, esp indistinctly
sound as a bell in perfect condition
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


to be or cause to be shaped like a bell
(tr) to attach a bell or bells to
bell the cat to undertake a dangerous mission

Word Origin for bell

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




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


to utter (such a cry)

Word Origin for bell

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



Acton, Currer (ˈkʌrə), and Ellis . pen names of the sisters Anne, Charlotte, and Emily BrontëSee Brontë
Alexander Graham . 1847–1922, US scientist, born in Scotland, who invented the telephone (1876)
Sir Francis Henry Dillon . 1851–1936, New Zealand statesman; prime minister of New Zealand (1925)
Gertrude (Margaret Lowthian). 1868–1926, British traveller, writer, and diplomat; secretary to the British High Commissioner in Baghdad (1917–26)
Joshua. born 1967, US violinist
Dame (Susan) Jocelyn, married name Jocelyn Burnell, born 1943, British radio astronomer, who discovered the first pulsar
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

Word Origin and History for bell

Old English belle, common North Sea Germanic (cf. Middle Dutch belle, Middle Low German belle) but not found elsewhere in Germanic (except as a borrowing), from PIE root *bhel- (4) "to sound, roar." Statistical bell curve was coined 1870s in French. Of glasses in the shape of a bell from 1640s. Bell pepper is from 1707, so called for its shape. Bell, book, and candle is a reference to a form of excommunication. To ring a bell "awaken a memory" (1934) is perhaps a reference to Pavlovian experiments.


"attach a bell," late 14c., from bell (n.). Related: Belled; belling. Allusions to the story of the mice that bell the cat (so they can hear him coming) date to 1520s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for bell


[bĕl]Sir Charles 1774-1842

British anatomist and surgeon who published detailed anatomies of the nervous system and the brain. He was the first to distinguish between sensory and motor nerves. Bell's Law and Bell's palsy are named for him.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Science definitions for bell


[bĕl]Alexander Graham 1847-1922

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.

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.