Definition of belfry
1 : a bell tower; especially : one surmounting or attached to another structure
2 : a room or framework for enclosing a bell
3 : head 2a batty in the belfry
belfry was our Word of the Day on 01/13/2014. Hear the podcast!
Did You Know?
Surprisingly, belfry does not come from bell, and early belfries did not contain bells at all. Belfry comes from berfrey, a medieval term for a wooden tower used in sieges. The structure could be rolled up to a fortification wall so that warriors hidden inside could storm the battlements. Over time, the term was applied to other types of shelters and towers, many of which had bells in them. Through association, people began spelling berfrey as bellfrey, then as belfrey and later belfry. On a more metaphorical note, someone who has "bats in the belfry" is crazy or eccentric. This phrase is responsible for the use of bats for "crazy" ("Are you completely bats?") and the occasional use of belfry for "head" ("He's not quite right in the belfry").
Origin and Etymology of belfry
Middle English belfrey, berfrey, bell tower, siege tower, from Anglo-French *berfrei, *belfrei, of Germanic origin (akin to Middle High German bërvrit siege tower); akin to Old High German bergan to shelter and to Old English frith peace, refuge — more at bury
First Known Use: 15th century
BELFRY Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of belfry for English Language Learners
: a tower or part of a tower where a bell or set of bells hangs
BELFRY Defined for Kids
Definition of belfry for Students
: a tower or room in a tower for a bell or set of bells
Seen and Heard
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