\ 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

In March 2018, the death knell rang for the northern white rhino when a 45-year-old male named Sudan passed away at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Eggs Successfully Collected from the Last Two Northern White Rhinos," 24 Aug. 2019 That came after federal biologists reversed themselves in July — concluding that the Rialto development would not be the death knell for the rat — even though the subdivision would cover 1,048 acres of critical habitat. Los Angeles Times, "This rat is foiling developers’ plans to capitalize on a weaker Endangered Species Act," 22 Aug. 2019 The inside posts on the main track have been a death knell. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Oceanside horse owner Bloom eyeing Breeders’ Cup with Midnight Bisou," 27 Aug. 2019 Declining enrollment coupled with chronic funding issues was the school's death knell. Lily Altavena, azcentral, "Squeezed by declining enrollment, Arizona's rural schools are suffering," 12 June 2019 And that could sound the death knell for the area, which is completely dependent -- as is all of Borrego Springs -- on groundwater because there is no economically feasible way to bring water via aqueduct or pipes to that portion of the desert. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Borrego Air Ranch: A desert community in peril," 7 July 2019 One thing everyone agrees on: the opening of the charter school, Woodland Prep, is a death knell for the current setup of the community schools. Trisha Powell Crain |,, "Rural charter school stokes religious fears, roils community in Alabama," 21 July 2019 China’s role as the world’s workshop is starting to fade, but surprisingly this may not sound the death knell for mainland manufacturing. The Economist, "Three industriesSupply chains for different industries are fragmenting in different ways," 11 July 2019 Independent India’s encouragement of diesel-powered borewells proved to be the baoli’s death-knell. The Economist, "India’s magnificent stepwells are relics of a nuanced history," 13 July 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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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).


a topic to which one constantly reverts

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