Definition of belfry
- batty in the belfry
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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.
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").
First Known Use: 15th centurySee Words from the same year
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having a quality expressive of sadness
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