\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

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 The killing, or bleaching, of the algae — which have a symbiotic relationship with the coral — is a death knell for the whole structure. Peter Fimrite,, "Hawaii to ban sunscreen that damages coral," 7 July 2018 Those words are a death knell for a designer who built a brand on those exact ideals. Cam Wolf, GQ, "Bottega Veneta Designer Tomas Maier Departs," 14 June 2018 Moseley’s retirement in 1986 was the death knell for a style, and also for an era. Michael Farber,, "Mark Moseley, Last of the Straight-On Kickers," 2 July 2018 Ford itself pulled out of the city a little over two decades ago amid a looming financial crisis, potentially sounding the death knell for the city’s economic prospects. Alex Bazeley, Curbed, "Ford taps Snøhetta to design new downtown Detroit campus," 26 June 2018 Systrom’s death knell for any video that isn’t vertical may be premature. Louise Matsakis, WIRED, "With IGTV, Instagram Takes Aim at YouTube," 20 June 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


see knell entry 2


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

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Dictionary Entries near knell

knee wall







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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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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).


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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