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.

verb (used without object)

  1. to sound, as a bell, especially a funeral bell.
  2. to give forth a mournful, ominous, or warning sound.

verb (used with object)

  1. to proclaim or summon by, or as if by, a bell.


  1. the sound of a bell rung to announce a death or a funeral
  2. something that precipitates or indicates death or destruction


  1. (intr) to ring a knell
  2. (tr) to proclaim or announce by or as if by a tolling bell

n.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. v.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. see death knell.

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