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See synonyms for knell on
  1. the sound made by a bell rung slowly, especially for a death or a funeral.

  2. a sound or sign announcing the death of a person or the end, extinction, failure, etc., of something: the knell of parting day.

  1. any mournful sound.

verb (used without object)
  1. to sound, as a bell, especially a funeral bell.

  2. to give forth a mournful, ominous, or warning sound.

verb (used with object)
  1. to proclaim or summon by, or as if by, a bell.

Origin of knell

before 950; (noun) Middle English knel,Old English cynll; (v.) Middle English knellen, knyllen,Old English cynllan; cognate with Old Norse knylla to beat, strike; akin to Dutch knal bang, knallen to bang, German Knall explosion, knallen to explode

Other words from knell

  • un·knelled, adjective

Words Nearby knell Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use knell in a sentence

  • When you have somebody working for your campaign, like Grooms, who says you can't win, that is the death knell for a candidate.

    Why the Rick Perry Ship Went Down | Patricia Murphy | January 19, 2012 | THE DAILY BEAST
  • I now consider it the death knell for traditional publishing.

    The Future of the Book | Sam Harris | September 27, 2011 | THE DAILY BEAST
  • A knell from the church bell broke harshly on these youthful thoughts.

  • The tones of the neighbouring convent bell, echoing through the stony vaults, sounded loud and awful as the knell of doom.

    The Catacombs of Rome | William Henry Withrow
  • It is not so now, for when the blacks revolted and drove their masters from the land, the death-knell of civilisation was sounded.

  • When for mirth's yell earth's knell seemed pleaseSome dumb new grim great whim in him Made Jews take chalk for cheese.

  • This date this pupil translates by the phrase, “Dock knell all” .

    Assimilative Memory | Marcus Dwight Larrowe (AKA Prof. A. Loisette)

British Dictionary definitions for knell


/ (nɛl) /

  1. the sound of a bell rung to announce a death or a funeral

  2. something that precipitates or indicates death or destruction

  1. (intr) to ring a knell

  2. (tr) to proclaim or announce by or as if by a tolling bell

Origin of knell

Old English cnyll; related to Middle High German knüllen to strike, Dutch knallen to bang

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with knell


see death knell.

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