• synonyms


  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.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to sound, as a bell, especially a funeral bell.
  2. to give forth a mournful, ominous, or warning sound.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to proclaim or summon by, or as if by, a bell.
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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


Examples from the Web for knelling

Historical Examples

  • Faintly out of the frosty air was wafted the knelling of midnight.

    Memoirs of a Midget

    Walter de la Mare

  • If he were sighted from above, what should stay those bells from knelling for him.

    The Unknown Sea

    Clemence Housman

  • "You are forty-two, you are old, you are nobody," was knelling through her brain.

  • Her lover, hearing the knelling and chanting, puts himself in the way and bids the bearers stop.

  • These are mournful, but somewhat hopeful strains; for one who feels that "time has long been knelling, sad one, depart!"

    The Genius of Scotland

    Robert Turnbull

British Dictionary definitions for knelling


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

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 knelling



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.

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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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with knelling


see death knell.

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