\ 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

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 Federal Reserve just announced the death knell for a stream of riskless free cash that foreign banks have enjoyed for much of the past decade. Mike Bird, WSJ, "Foreign Banks Bid Farewell to Fed’s Free Money Tree," 2 May 2019 Remember: Pixelation and artifacting is the death knell of any sort of quality viewing experience. Darren Orf, Popular Mechanics, "'Games of Thrones' Proves Why You Need an OLED TV," 29 Apr. 2019 Boeing admitted that the 747's death knells were nearing in its 20 year forecast, released in 2017. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "50 Years On, Boeing's 747 Is Fighting for Survival," 11 Feb. 2019 Having to cancel a project worth such an extraordinary amount would likely be the death knell for most new players in any field. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Bill Gates's Experimental Nuclear Power Plant Halts Construction in China," 2 Jan. 2019 But its enforcement action against Herbalife in July 2016 was not the death knell that Mr. Ackman had been counting on. Matthew Goldstein, New York Times, "Ackman Ends His 5-Year Fight With Herbalife," 28 Feb. 2018 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

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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More Definitions for knell



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

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).


to move with exaggerated bouncy motions

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