\ ˈnel How to pronounce knell (audio) \

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

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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: Noun Johnson's stunning election victory was also the death knell for those who harbored dreams of putting Brexit to a second referendum or scrapping it entirely. Alexander Smith, NBC News, "Boris Johnson will finally pass a Brexit but E.U. divorce is far from 'done'," 19 Dec. 2019 Though Love might help on the offensive end, losing Millsap on defense could be a death knell. Mike Singer, The Denver Post, "Nuggets Journal: Should Denver make a deal before trade deadline?," 20 Dec. 2019 This committee has sounded the death knell for minority rights. Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY, "An abrupt ending that inspired GOP fury and other takeaways from Thursday's marathon impeachment debate," 13 Dec. 2019 An 0-3 start is almost always a death knell for an NFL team. Bob Mcmanaman, azcentral, "Steelers still have shot at playoffs despite 0-3 start; Cardinals could play spoiler role," 4 Dec. 2019 Oregon’s hopes of making it into the College Football Playoff are over and its loss might be a death knell for the Pac-12 as well. oregonlive, "Oregon defense flounders as Arizona State kills Ducks’ College Football Playoff hopes: Game at a glance," 24 Nov. 2019 The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s move to sue the parent company of the U.K.’s Mail on Sunday won’t sound the death knell for sensationalist tabloid muckraking. Alex Webb | Bloomberg, Washington Post, "Meghan and Harry Aren’t Much of a Money-Spinner," 7 Oct. 2019 But Philip Marcus, a computational physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, doesn't think the flakes are the spot's death knell. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "Jupiter's Great Red Spot is not dying, scientist says," 25 Nov. 2019 Missing the debate stage has so far been a virtual death knell for campaigns., "The Democratic National Committee announced Friday that the sixth Democratic primary debate would be held in December at the University of California, Los Angeles, while ratcheting up the polling and donor criteria for candidates to qualify for a coveted spot onstage.," 25 Oct. 2019

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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Time Traveler for knell

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for knell

Last Updated

14 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Knell.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 20 January 2020.

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More Definitions for knell


How to pronounce knell (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of knell

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


\ ˈnel How to pronounce knell (audio) \

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for knell

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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).


not to be intimidated or subdued

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