noun Chiefly Midland U.S.

Origin of belling

First recorded in 1860–65; bell1 + -ing1




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.
the stroke or sound of such an instrument: We rose at the bell.
anything in the form of a bell.
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.
Architecture. the underlying part of a foliated capital.
  1. any of the half-hour units of nautical time rung on the bell of a ship.
  2. each individual ring of the bell, counted with others to reckon the time: It is now four bells.
  3. a signal on the telegraph of a large power vessel, made between the navigating officers and the engineer.
Zoology. umbrella(def 2).
Botany. the bell-shaped corolla of a flower.
Metallurgy. a conical lid that seals the top of a blast furnace and lowers to admit a charge.

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 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for belling

Historical Examples of belling

  • In a storm on Hallowe'en is heard the belling of his hounds.

    The Book of Hallowe'en

    Ruth Edna Kelley

  • Then arose the question, who should bell the cat, or rather, who should lead the cat to the belling.

    Mary Anerley

    R. D. Blackmore

  • Just then too, I heard the belling bay of the hound Master, and waited for the next.


    H. Rider Haggard

  • Lī′bellant, one who brings a libel; Lī′beller; Lī′belling, defaming.

  • And those shrill cries now belling through the mountain heights ought to draw everyone of their species within miles.

    Storm Over Warlock

    Andre Norton

British Dictionary definitions for belling




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 belling



"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.



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

belling in Medicine


[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.

belling in Science


[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 belling


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.