1 of 2


: a stroke or sound of a bell especially when rung slowly (as for a death, funeral, or disaster)
: an indication of the end or the failure of something
sounded the death knell for our hopes


2 of 2


knelled; knelling; knells

transitive verb

: to summon or announce by or as if by a knell

intransitive verb

: to ring especially for a death, funeral, or disaster : toll
: to sound in an ominous manner or with an ominous effect

Examples of knell in a Sentence

Verb the church bells knelled to mark the death of the nation's beloved leader
Recent Examples on the Web
The final death knell of the Great Resignation has rung. Nela Richardson, Fortune, 23 Oct. 2023 The social distancing, masking, and dramatic reduction of global travel that followed the start of the pandemic appeared to have sounded a death knell for B/Yamagata. Helen Branswell, STAT, 5 Oct. 2023 Now, an increasing number of experts are sounding the death knell for the two-state solution. Los Angeles Times, 13 Feb. 2023 Some might accuse me of prematurely tolling Twitter’s death knell. J.p. Brammer, Los Angeles Times, 20 July 2023 Folding its developer Luminous Productions back into Square Enix shortly after the game’s launch seemed like the death knell for the game. Ash Parrish, The Verge, 29 Mar. 2023 Axne’s narrow defeat last November can be argued both ways—either as the death knell of Democrats in Iowa or as the result of strategic missteps. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, 9 Feb. 2023 When Superior Court Judge Robert Okun delivered his death knell to the museum, the National Gallery already had plans to present an exhibition of the British artist Rachel Whiteread and an important survey of outsider art at the Corcoran. Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, 22 Sep. 2023 Wednesday's softer-than-expected inflation data may prove the death knell for the strong U.S. dollar. Chelsey Dulaney, WSJ, 13 July 2023
Day 18: Hard to focus with all the death knells tolling. Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, The New Yorker, 1 Apr. 2020 See More

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

Word History


Verb and Noun

Middle English, from Old English cnyllan; akin to Middle High German erknellen to toll

First Known Use


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of knell was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near knell

Cite this Entry

“Knell.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
: to ring slowly and solemnly especially for a death, funeral, or disaster : toll
: to summon, announce, or warn by a knell


2 of 2 noun
: a stroke or sound of a bell especially when rung slowly for a death, funeral, or disaster
: an indication (as a sound) of the end or failure of something

More from Merriam-Webster on knell

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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