ring someone's bell

ring someone's bell


  1. a hollow instrument of cast metal, typically cup-shaped with a flaring mouth, suspended from the vertex and rung by the strokes of a clapper, hammer, or the like.
  2. the stroke or sound of such an instrument: We rose at the bell.
  3. anything in the form of a bell.
  4. the large end of a funnel, or the end of a pipe, tube, or any musical wind instrument, when its edge is turned out and enlarged.
  5. Architecture. the underlying part of a foliated capital.
  6. Nautical.
    1. any of the half-hour units of nautical time rung on the bell of a ship.
    2. each individual ring of the bell, counted with others to reckon the time: It is now four bells.
    3. a signal on the telegraph of a large power vessel, made between the navigating officers and the engineer.
  7. Zoology. umbrella(def 2).
  8. Botany. the bell-shaped corolla of a flower.
  9. Metallurgy. a conical lid that seals the top of a blast furnace and lowers to admit a charge.

verb (used with object)

  1. to cause to swell or expand like a bell (often followed by out): Belling out the tubes will permit a freer passage of air.
  2. to put a bell on.

verb (used without object)

  1. to take or have the form of a bell.
  2. Botany. to produce bells; be in bell (said of hops when the seed vessels are forming).
  1. bell the cat. cat(def 19).
  2. ring a bell, to evoke a memory, especially a vague or partial recollection; remind one of something: His name rings a bell but I can’t remember him.
  3. ring someone’s bell,
    1. to provide what is desired; be satisfactory or successful: This new book just doesn’t ring my bell.
    2. Slang.to arouse sexually or bring someone to orgasm.

    Also ring the bell.

  4. saved by the bell,
    1. (of a boxer) saved from a knockout by the ringing of a gong signaling the end of a round.
    2. (of any person) spared from anticipated trouble by some extraneous event.
  5. with bells on, Informal. eagerly; ready to enjoy oneself: Just say when, and we’ll be there with bells on.


  1. a hollow, usually metal, cup-shaped instrument that emits a musical ringing sound when struck, often by a clapper hanging inside it
  2. the sound made by such an instrument or device, as for showing the hours or marking the beginning or end of a period of time
  3. an electrical device that rings or buzzes as a signal
  4. the bowl-shaped termination of the tube of certain musical wind instruments, such as the trumpet or oboe
  5. any musical percussion instrument emitting a ringing tone, such as a glockenspiel, one of a set of hand bells, etcCompare chime 1 (def. 3)
  6. nautical a signal rung on a ship’s bell to count the number of half-hour intervals during each of six four-hour watches reckoned from midnight. Thus, one bell may signify 12.30, 4.30, or 8.30 a.m. or p.m
  7. See diving bell
  8. biology a structure resembling a bell in shape, such as the corolla of certain flowers or the body of a jellyfish
  9. British slang a telephone call (esp in the phrase give someone a bell)
  10. beat seven bells out of or knock seven bells out of British informal to give a severe beating to
  11. bell, book, and candle
    1. instruments used formerly in excommunications and other ecclesiastical acts
    2. informalthe solemn ritual ratification of such acts
  12. ring a bell to sound familiar; recall to the mind something previously experienced, esp indistinctly
  13. sound as a bell in perfect condition
  14. the bells the ringing of bells, in a church or other public building, at midnight on December 31st, symbolizing the beginning of a new year


  1. to be or cause to be shaped like a bell
  2. (tr) to attach a bell or bells to
  3. bell the cat to undertake a dangerous mission


  1. a bellowing or baying cry, esp that of a hound or a male deer in rut


  1. to utter (such a cry)


  1. Acton, Currer (ˈkʌrə), and Ellis . pen names of the sisters Anne, Charlotte, and Emily BrontëSee Brontë
  2. Alexander Graham . 1847–1922, US scientist, born in Scotland, who invented the telephone (1876)
  3. Sir Francis Henry Dillon . 1851–1936, New Zealand statesman; prime minister of New Zealand (1925)
  4. Gertrude (Margaret Lowthian). 1868–1926, British traveller, writer, and diplomat; secretary to the British High Commissioner in Baghdad (1917–26)
  5. Joshua. born 1967, US violinist
  6. Dame (Susan) Jocelyn, married name Jocelyn Burnell, born 1943, British radio astronomer, who discovered the first pulsar
  7. Vanessa, original name Vanessa Stephen . 1879–1961, British painter; a member of the Bloomsbury group, sister of Virginia Woolf and wife of the art critic Clive Bell (1881–1964)

“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.

  1. British anatomist and surgeon who published detailed anatomies of the nervous system and the brain. He was the first to distinguish between sensory and motor nerves. Bell’s Law and Bell’s palsy are named for him.

  1. Scottish-born American scientist and inventor whose lifelong interest in the education of deaf people led him to conceive the idea of transmitting speech by electric waves. In 1876 his experiments with a telegraph resulted in his invention of the telephone. He later produced the first successful sound recorder, an early hearing aid, and many other devices.

In addition to the idiom beginning with bell

  • bell the cat, who will

also see:

  • clear as a bell
  • ring a bell
  • saved by the bell
  • sound as a bell
  • with bells on
45 queries 0.377