Definition of bell noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//bel//
    ; NAmE NAmE//bel//
    In school, School life
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  1. 1  a hollow metal object, often shaped like a cup, that makes a ringing sound when hit by a small piece of metal inside it; the sound that it makes A peal of church bells rang out in the distance. a bicycle bell His voice came down the line as clear as a bell. the bell of a trumpet (= the bell-shaped part at the end of it) a bell tower a bell-shaped flower wedding bells The dancers wore bells on their ankles. Culturebells and bell-ringingBells hung high in the towers of churches are rung to announce church services. In Britain the sound of church bells from a belfry is associated with Sunday mornings and with weddings. Bells throughout the country may also be rung at times of national celebration. Before minor services or to announce a funeral (= a service for a dead person), a single bell is usually sounded repeatedly for five or ten minutes. The blessing of the bread and wine at a Communion service may also be indicated by the sounding of a bell.Churches usually have between 5 and 12 bells, which are rung by teams of bell-ringers. The ringers stand far below the bells and each pulls on a long rope attached to a bell in such a way that the bell swings over in a circle, causing the clapper inside the bell to strike the side. In a peal each of the bells is rung in turn, and the order in which they are rung changes according to a pattern. This is called change-ringing. Complicated tunes can be played and many changes have their own name, e.g. Grandsire Triples and Oxford Treble Bob.Other types of institution also use bells: Great Tom, the big bell at Christ Church College, Oxford, is rung 101 times each night, indicating the original number of scholars at the college. The most famous bell in Britain is Big Ben, the large bell in the clock tower next to the Houses of Parliament in London, which chimes the hours and is heard on radio and television.Bell-ringing used to be a popular hobby though it is now sometimes necessary to use a recording of bells before church services because of a shortage of bell-ringers. Some people complain about the noise of bells but most people like the sound.America's experience with bells did not begin well, since the nation's Liberty Bell cracked in 1752. Bells are heard in churches and at colleges and universities. Some communities, especially in New England, ring bells as a celebration. Bells are also used to announce the time, mostly using the eight notes of Big Ben.There are very few traditional bell-ringers in the US. Instead, many institutions have carillon bells, a group of up to 70 bells controlled from a keyboard like that of an organ. Carillon bells can play tunes and simple harmonies. The 50 bells of the Allen & Perkins Carillon at Duke University in North Carolina were first used to play songs in 1932. Other well-known carillons include the Sather Tower Carillon at the University of California at Berkeley. Many of the bells in the US are imported from Britain.
  2. 2  an electrical device which makes a ringing sound when a button on it is pushed; the sound that it makes, used as a signal or a warning Ring the bell to see if they're in. The bell's ringing! The bell went for the end of the lesson. An alarm bell went off. (figurative) Warning bells started ringing in her head as she sensed that something was wrong. See related entries: In school, School life
  3. Word OriginOld English belle, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch bel.Extra examples Saved by the bell! I thought I’d have to sit here listening to you two argue forever. She heard a peal of church bells. The bells on the harness tinkled softly. The church bells tolled for Evensong. The laptop has all the latest bells and whistles. The school bell goes at three every afternoon. The sound of bells echoed across the valley. The two of them went everywhere together and their friends could already hear wedding bells. Their friends could already hear wedding bells= were sure they would get married. the faint chime of bellsIdioms
    alarm bells ring/start ringing
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    if you say that alarm bells are ringing, you mean that people are starting to feel worried and suspicious The government’s proposal has set alarm bells ringing for people on low incomes.
    (British English, informal) to call somebody by telephone See related entries: Making calls
    pull the other one (—it’s got bells on)
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    (British English, informal) used to show that you do not believe what somebody has just said
    (informal) to sound familiar to you, as though you have heard it before His name rings a bell but I can't think where we met. (informal) in perfect condition The doctor said I was as sound as a bell. More Like ThisSimiles in idioms (as) bald as a coot, (as) blind as a bat, (as) bright as a button, (as) bold as brass, as busy as a bee, as clean as a whistle, (as) dead as a/​the dodo, (as) deaf as a post, (as) dull as ditchwater, (as) fit as a fiddle, as flat as a pancake, (as) good as gold, (as) mad as a hatter/​a March hare, (as) miserable/​ugly as sin, as old as the hills, (as) pleased as Punch, as pretty as a picture, (as) regular as clockwork, (as) quick as a flash, (as) safe as houses, (as) sound as a bell, (as) steady as a rock, (as) thick as two short planks, (as) tough as old bootsSee worksheet.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: bell