• synonyms


See more synonyms for knell on Thesaurus.com
  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.
  3. any mournful sound.
Show More
verb (used without object)
  1. to sound, as a bell, especially a funeral bell.
  2. to give forth a mournful, ominous, or warning sound.
Show More
verb (used with object)
  1. to proclaim or summon by, or as if by, a bell.
Show More

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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for knell

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

Examples from the Web for knell

Historical Examples of knell

  • The signs, which certainly did look like signs of guilt, struck a knell on the heart of his father.

    The Channings

    Mrs. Henry Wood

  • Still that word, which rang like a knell in his dazed brain!

  • It sounded the knell of all hope of redress of their wrongs.


    Rafael Sabatini

  • How often does the knell of vanished power repeat the lesson!

  • The dead I knell, the living wake, And the power of lightning break!


    Charles Godfrey Leland

British Dictionary definitions for knell


  1. the sound of a bell rung to announce a death or a funeral
  2. something that precipitates or indicates death or destruction
Show More
  1. (intr) to ring a knell
  2. (tr) to proclaim or announce by or as if by a tolling bell
Show More

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.

Show More

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.

Show More
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with knell


see death knell.

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