the sound made by a bell rung slowly, especially for a death or a funeral.
a sound or sign announcing the death of a person or the end, extinction, failure, etc., of something: the knell of parting day.
any mournful sound.

verb (used without object)

to sound, as a bell, especially a funeral bell.
to give forth a mournful, ominous, or warning sound.

verb (used with object)

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
Related formsun·knelled, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for knell

sound, bell, signal, summon, warning, toll, ring, proclaim

Examples from the Web for knell

Historical Examples of knell

British Dictionary definitions for knell



the sound of a bell rung to announce a death or a funeral
something that precipitates or indicates death or destruction


(intr) to ring a knell
(tr) to proclaim or announce by or as if by a tolling bell

Word Origin for 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

Word Origin and History for knell

Old English cnyll "sound made by a bell when struck or rung slowly," perhaps of imitative origin. The Welsh cnull "death-bell" appears to be a borrowing from English. For vowel evolution, see bury.


Old English cnyllan "to toll a bell; strike, knock," cognate with Middle High German erknellen "to resound," Old Norse knylla "to beat, thrash;" probably imitative. Related: Knelled; knelling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

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.