ring the changes

ring the changes

verb (used with object), changed, chang·ing.

  1. to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone: to change one’s name; to change one’s opinion; to change the course of history.
  2. to transform or convert (usually followed by into): The witch changed the prince into a toad.
  3. to substitute another or others for; exchange for something else, usually of the same kind: She changed her shoes when she got home from the office.
  4. to give and take reciprocally; interchange: to change places with someone.
  5. to transfer from one (conveyance) to another: You’ll have to change planes in Chicago.
  6. to give or get an equivalent amount of money in lower denominations in exchange for: to change a five-dollar bill.
  7. to give or get foreign money in exchange for: to change dollars into francs.
  8. to remove and replace the covering or coverings of: to change a bed.
  9. to remove a dirty diaper from (a baby) and replace it with a clean one: new parents, learning to change a baby.

verb (used without object), changed, chang·ing.

  1. to become different: Overnight the nation’s mood changed.
  2. to become altered or modified: Colors change if they are exposed to the sun.
  3. to become transformed or converted (usually followed by into): The toad changed back into a prince.
  4. to pass gradually into (usually followed by to or into): Summer changed to autumn.
  5. to switch or to make an exchange: If you want to sit next to the window, I’ll change with you.
  6. to transfer between trains or other conveyances: We can take the local and change to an express at the next stop.
  7. to remove one’s clothes and put on different clothes: She changed into jeans.
  8. (of the moon) to pass from one phase to another.
  9. (of the voice) to become deeper in tone; come to have a lower register: The boy’s voice began to change when he was thirteen.


  1. the act or fact of changing; fact of being changed: They are pleased by the change in their son’s behavior.
  2. a transformation or modification; alteration: They noticed the change in his facial expression.
  3. a variation or deviation: a change in the daily routine.
  4. the substitution of one thing for another: We finally made the change to an oil-burning furnace.
  5. variety or novelty: Let’s try a new restaurant for a change.
  6. the passing from one place, state, form, or phase to another: a change of seasons; social change.
  7. Jazz. harmonic progression from one tonality to another; modulation.
  8. the supplanting of one thing by another: We need a total change of leadership.
  9. anything that is or may be substituted for another.
  10. a fresh set of clothing.
  11. money given in exchange for an equivalent of higher denomination.
  12. a balance of money that is returned when the sum tendered in payment is larger than the sum due.
  13. coins of low denomination.
  14. any of the various sequences in which a peal of bells may be rung.
  15. Also ‘change. British. exchange(def 10).
  16. Obsolete. changefulness; caprice.

Verb Phrases

  1. change off,
    1. to take turns with another, as at doing a task.
    2. to alternate between two tasks or between a task and a rest break.
  1. change front, Military. to shift a military force in another direction.
  2. change hands. hand(def 47).
  3. change one’s mind, to change one’s opinions or intentions.
  4. ring the changes,
    1. to perform all permutations possible in ringing a set of tuned bells, as in a bell tower of a church.
    2. to vary the manner of performing an action or of discussing a subject; repeat with variations.


  1. to make or become different; alter
  2. (tr) to replace with or exchange for anotherto change one’s name
  3. (sometimes foll by to or into) to transform or convert or be transformed or converted
  4. to give and receive (something) in return; interchangeto change places with someone
  5. (tr) to give or receive (money) in exchange for the equivalent sum in a smaller denomination or different currency
  6. (tr) to remove or replace the coverings ofto change a baby
  7. (when intr, may be foll by into or out of) to put on other clothes
  8. (intr) (of the moon) to pass from one phase to the following one
  9. to operate (the gear lever of a motor vehicle) in order to alter the gear ratioto change gear
  10. to alight from (one bus, train, etc) and board another
  11. change face to rotate the telescope of a surveying instrument through 180° horizontally and vertically, taking a second sighting of the same object in order to reduce error
  12. change feet informal to put on different shoes, boots, etc
  13. change front
    1. militaryto redeploy (a force in the field) so that its main weight of weapons points in another direction
    2. to alter one’s attitude, opinion, etc
  14. change hands to pass from one owner to another
  15. change one’s mind to alter one’s decision or opinion
  16. change one’s tune to alter one’s attitude or tone of speech


  1. the act or fact of changing or being changed
  2. a variation, deviation, or modification
  3. the substitution of one thing for another; exchange
  4. anything that is or may be substituted for something else
  5. variety or novelty (esp in the phrase for a change)I want to go to France for a change
  6. a different or fresh set, esp of clothes
  7. money given or received in return for its equivalent in a larger denomination or in a different currency
  8. the balance of money given or received when the amount tendered is larger than the amount due
  9. coins of a small denomination regarded collectively
  10. (often capital) archaic a place where merchants meet to transact business; an exchange
  11. the act of passing from one state or phase to another
  12. the transition from one phase of the moon to the next
  13. the order in which a peal of bells may be rung
  14. sport short for changeover (def. 3b)
  15. slang desirable or useful information
  16. obsolete fickleness or caprice
  17. change of heart a profound change of outlook, opinion, etc
  18. get no change out of someone slang not to be successful in attempts to exploit or extract information from someone
  19. ring the changes to vary the manner or performance of an action that is often repeated

c.1200, “act or fact of changing,” from Anglo-French chaunge, Old French change “exchange, recompense, reciprocation,” from changier (see change (v.)).

Meaning “a different situation” is from 1680s. Meaning “something substituted for something else” is from 1590s. The financial sense of “balance returned when something is paid for” is first recorded 1620s; hence to make change (1865). Bell-ringing sense is from 1610s. Related: changes. Figurative phrase change of heart is from 1828.


early 13c., “to substitute one for another; to make (something) other than what it was” (transitive); from late 13c. as “to become different” (intransitive), from Old French changier “to change, alter; exchange, switch,” from Late Latin cambiare “to barter, exchange,” from Latin cambire “to exchange, barter,” of Celtic origin, from PIE root *kemb- “to bend, crook” (with a sense evolution perhaps from “to turn” to “to change,” to “to barter”); cf. Old Irish camm “crooked, curved;” Middle Irish cimb “tribute,” cimbid “prisoner;” see cant (n.2). Meaning “to take off clothes and put on other ones” is from late 15c. Related: Changed; changing. To change (one’s) mind is from 1610s.

Keep varying how one performs an action or says something, as in She went on and on, ringing the changes on the joy of computers. This expression alludes to the art of change-ringing, where a series of church bells are rung in as many sequences, or changes, as possible. [Early 1600s]

In addition to the idioms beginning with change

  • change hands
  • change horses in midstream, don’t
  • change off
  • change of heart
  • change of life
  • change of pace
  • change one’s mind
  • change one’s stripes
  • change one’s tune
  • change the subject

also see:

  • for a change
  • leopard cannot change its spots
  • piece of change
  • ring the changes
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