a bell hung around a cow's neck to indicate its whereabouts.
the bladder campion.

Origin of cowbell

First recorded in 1805–15; cow1 + bell1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for cowbell

Historical Examples of cowbell

  • It was as good as a cowbell for letting the world know one's whereabouts.

    The Tale of Mrs. Ladybug

    Arthur Scott Bailey

  • No, suh; it was a buzzard with a cowbell on his neck—that's whut it was.

  • "I'll stake a cowbell that Sevier will stop at the Widow Brown's," he replied.

    The Crossing

    Winston Churchill

  • Some distance away, they could hear the dinging of a cowbell.

  • My companion said it was a wolf; I said it was a dog; but soon we heard a cowbell.

    Wilford Woodruff

    Matthias F. Cowley

British Dictionary definitions for cowbell



a bell hung around a cow's neck so that the cow can be easily located
a metal percussion instrument usually mounted on the bass drum or hand-held and struck with a drumstick
US another name for bladder campion
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 cowbell

1650s, American English, from cow (n.1) + bell (n.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper