\ ˈnel \

Definition of knell

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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


knelled; knelling; knells

Definition of knell (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

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

intransitive verb

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

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Synonyms for knell

Synonyms: Verb

bong, chime, peal, ring, toll

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Examples of knell in a Sentence


the church bells knelled to mark the death of the nation's beloved leader

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The death knell for the battleship age came on the day that will live in infamy. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "As It Begins Its Second Century, Is the Aircraft Carrier Obsolete?," 5 Nov. 2018 Her analysis should be the death knell for lazy shorthand writing that treats 74 percent of the electorate as some kind of monolithic bloc. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "St. Beto and the August altar call," 30 Aug. 2018 Among his terrifying promises was to open the Amazon rainforest to Brazil's powerful agribusiness lobby, which scientists and activists foresee as a potential death knell for the world's already slim chances of combatting climate change. Vogue, "Why Environmentalists (Among Many Others) Are Worried About Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s New Far-Right President," 29 Oct. 2018 The End of Motorcycles Driverless vehicles could be a death knell for motorcycles. Samuel I. Schwartz, WSJ, "How Autonomous Vehicles Will Reshape Our World," 18 Oct. 2018 The public has heard the same death knell for years., "Instead of Killing Boxing, the UFC Plans to Use It As a Lifeline," 14 Feb. 2018 For some, the day Donald Trump was elected U.S. president sounded the death knell for the Iran nuclear deal (or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA, as it is formally known). Tom Keatinge, Time, "Another Death Knell for the Iran Nuclear Deal," 4 July 2018 Failure to fix Dublin could sound the death knell for check-free travel and easy cross-border business across Europe — the two crowning achievements of the bloc. Washington Post, "Disputed policies on migrants are the top threat to EU unity," 16 June 2018 The 2017 game was the death knell for the Jim McElwain era in Gainesville. Daniel Rapaport,, "The Best Games of Every Week of the 2018 Season," 15 Jan. 2018

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

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First Known Use of knell


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


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

History and Etymology for knell

Verb and Noun

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

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Dictionary Entries near knell

knee wall







Statistics for knell

Last Updated

30 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for knell

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

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More Definitions for knell



English Language Learners Definition of knell

: a sound of a bell when it is rung slowly because someone has died


\ ˈnel \

Kids Definition of knell

1 : a stroke or sound of a bell especially when rung slowly for a death, funeral, or disaster
2 : an indication of the end or failure of something “… it sounds the death knell of our society.”— Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

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More from Merriam-Webster on knell

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with knell

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for knell

Spanish Central: Translation of knell

Nglish: Translation of knell for Spanish Speakers

Comments on knell

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


a complex dispute or argument

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