bats in the belfry

idiomatic phrase

variants or chiefly US bats in one's belfry
informal + old-fashioned
: mentally unsound or very eccentric
They might be strange and deranged, but The Addams Family isn't the only domestic unit with bats in the belfry.Brian Kelly
They might say he's not quite all there. Or, he is a few bricks short of a load. They used to say he's got bats in his belfry. Or, he's not playing with a full deck.Mary B. Olsen

Examples of bats in the belfry in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The presence of bats in the belfry, as a metaphor for disordered thinking, is usually taken to refer to the way bats would flutter around the upper stories of distressed churches, but a larger madness, Eklöf thinks, is responsible for their absence. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 20 Feb. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'bats in the belfry.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1897, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of bats in the belfry was in 1897

Dictionary Entries Near bats in the belfry

Cite this Entry

“Bats in the belfry.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Jul. 2024.

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