belfry

noun bel·fry \ ˈbel-frē \

Definition of belfry

plural belfries
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!

Recent Examples of belfry from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'belfry.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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").

Illustration of 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



BELFRY Defined for English Language Learners

belfry

noun

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

belfry

noun bel·fry \ ˈbel-frē \

Definition of belfry for Students

plural belfries
:a tower or room in a tower for a bell or set of bells

Learn More about belfry


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up belfry? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

WORD OF THE DAY

to speak evil of

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Forms of Government Quiz

  • knupfer-painting-solon-before-croesus
  • A gerontocracy is rule by:
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!