- any of the half-hour units of nautical time rung on the bell of a ship.
- each individual ring of the bell, counted with others to reckon the time: It is now four bells.
- a signal on the telegraph of a large power vessel, made between the navigating officers and the engineer.
verb (used with object)
verb (used without object)
- to provide what is desired; be satisfactory or successful: This new book just doesn't ring my bell.
- Slang.to arouse sexually or bring someone to orgasm.
- (of a boxer) saved from a knockout by the ringing of a gong signaling the end of a round.
- (of any person) spared from anticipated trouble by some extraneous event.
Origin of bell1
- instruments used formerly in excommunications and other ecclesiastical acts
- informalthe solemn ritual ratification of such acts
Word Origin for bell
Word Origin for bell
"attach a bell," late 14c., from bell (n.). Related: Belled; belling. Allusions to the story of the mice that bell the cat (so they can hear him coming) date to 1520s.
Old English belle, common North Sea Germanic (cf. Middle Dutch belle, Middle Low German belle) but not found elsewhere in Germanic (except as a borrowing), from PIE root *bhel- (4) "to sound, roar." Statistical bell curve was coined 1870s in French. Of glasses in the shape of a bell from 1640s. Bell pepper is from 1707, so called for its shape. Bell, book, and candle is a reference to a form of excommunication. To ring a bell "awaken a memory" (1934) is perhaps a reference to Pavlovian experiments.
with bells on
Ready to celebrate, eagerly, as in Of course I'll come; I'll be there with bells on. This metaphoric expression alludes to decorating oneself or one's clothing with little bells for some special performance or occasion. A well-known nursery rhyme has: “See a fine lady upon a white horse, Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, And she shall have music wherever she goes” (in Gammer Gurton's Garland, 1784).
In addition to the idiom beginning with bell
- bell the cat, who will
- clear as a bell
- ring a bell
- saved by the bell
- sound as a bell
- with bells on