noun, plural bel·lies.

  1. the front or under part of a vertebrate body from the breastbone to the pelvis, containing the abdominal viscera; the abdomen.
  2. the stomach with its adjuncts.
  3. appetite or capacity for food; gluttony.
  4. the womb.
  5. the inside or interior of anything: the belly of a ship.
  6. a protuberant or bulging surface of anything: the belly of a flask.
  7. Anatomy. the fleshy part of a muscle.
  8. the front, inner, or under surface or part, as distinguished from the back.
  9. the front surface of a violin or similar instrument.
  10. a bulge on a vertical surface of fresh concrete.
  11. the underpart of the fuselage of an airplane.

verb (used with object), bel·lied, bel·ly·ing.

  1. to fill out; swell: Wind bellied the sails.

verb (used without object), bel·lied, bel·ly·ing.

  1. to swell out: Sails bellying in the wind.
  2. to crawl on one’s belly: soldiers bellying through a rice paddy.

Verb Phrases

  1. belly up, Informal.
    1. to approach closely, especially until one is in physical contact: to belly up to a bar.
    2. to curry favor from: Would you have gotten the promotion if you hadn’t bellied up to the boss?

  1. go/turn belly up, Informal. to come to an end; die; fail: After years of barely surviving on donations, the neighborhood social club finally went belly up.

noun plural -lies

  1. the lower or front part of the body of a vertebrate, containing the intestines and other abdominal organs; abdomenRelated adjective: ventral
  2. the stomach, esp when regarded as the seat of gluttony
  3. a part, line, or structure that bulges deeplythe belly of a sail
  4. the inside or interior cavity of somethingthe belly of a ship
  5. the front or inner part or underside of something
  6. the surface of a stringed musical instrument over which the strings are stretched
  7. the thick central part of certain muscles
  8. Australian and NZ the wool from a sheep’s belly
  9. tanning the portion of a hide or skin on the underpart of an animal
  10. archery the surface of the bow next to the bowstring
  11. archaic the womb
  12. go belly up informal to die, fail, or come to an end

verb -lies, -lying or -lied

  1. to swell out or cause to swell out; bulge

Old English belg, bylg (West Saxon), bælg (Anglian) “leather bag, purse, bellows,” from Proto-Germanic *balgiz “bag” (cf. Old Norse belgr “bag, bellows,” bylgja “billow,” Gothic balgs “wineskin”), from PIE *bholgh-, from root *bhelgh- “to swell,” an extension of *bhel- (2) “to blow, swell” (see bole). Meaning shifted to “body” (late 13c.), then focused to “abdomen” (mid-14c.). Meaning “bulging part or concave surface of anything” is 1590s. The West Germanic root had a figurative or extended sense of “anger, arrogance” (cf. Old English bolgenmod “enraged;” belgan (v.) “to become angry”).

Indo-European languages commonly use the same word for both the external belly and the internal (stomach, womb, etc.), but the distinction of external and internal is somewhat present in English belly/stomach; Greek gastr- (see gastric) in classical language denoted the paunch or belly, while modern science uses it only in reference to the stomach as an organ. Fastidious avoidance of belly in speech and writing (compensated for by stretching the senses of imported stomach and abdomen, baby-talk tummy and misappropriated midriff) began late 18c. and the word was banished from Bibles in many early 19c. editions. Belly punch (n.) is attested from 1811.


“to swell out,” 1620s, from belly (n.). Related: Bellied; bellying. Old English belgan meant “to be or become angry” (a figurative sense). A comparable Greek verb-from-noun, gastrizein, meant “to hit (someone) in the belly.”


  1. abdomen
  2. The stomach.
  3. The womb; the uterus.
  4. The bulging, central part of a muscle.venter

see go belly up.

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