\ 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 If the food industry only barely makes it through this round, the next will surely be its death knell. Soleil Ho,, "The restaurant industry’s moral dilemma amidst pandemic: Stay open or close down," 9 Apr. 2020 Facebook can be the death knell of consumer privacy and also a fun place to share baby photos. Andrew Marantz, The New Yorker, "What the Coronavirus Crisis Has Changed About Social Media, and What It Hasn’t Changed," 26 Mar. 2020 Its death knell had sounded ten months earlier when Michael Milken, who created the junk-bond market on which the bank’s success was founded, was indicted for fraud. The Economist, "Michael Milken receives a presidential pardon," 20 Feb. 2020 Those involved with the show didn’t know if the allegations against Tambor would be its death knell. Yvonne Villarreal, Los Angeles Times, "After firing its star in the wake of scandal, Jill Soloway’s ‘Transparent’ rediscovers its voice," 10 Sep. 2019 This is usually a death knell for a pop performer aspiring to global status. Euny Hong, Allure, "How South Korea Became the Capital of Pop Culture," 13 Apr. 2020 Although the outbreak does not appear to be a death knell for the industry, chains are facing major challenges to their businesses. Nathaniel Meyersohn, CNN, "No more self-serve soda and hot dog rollers: Coronavirus upends convenience stores," 3 Apr. 2020 Reuters/Kate Munsch If the slump in business due to the coronavirus pandemic was not enough already, several young Indian startups are now facing a death knell due to contractual technicalities and indifference from co-working major WeWork. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz India, "WeWork is only making life harder for lockdown-hit Indian startups," 15 Apr. 2020 This is a death knell for a movement as wonkish and policy-focused as reform conservatism. Tanner Greer, National Review, "Learning the Wrong Lessons from Reform Conservatism," 17 Mar. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Day 18: Hard to focus with all the death knells tolling. Daniel Pollack-pelzner, The New Yorker, "What Shakespeare Actually Did During the Plague," 1 Apr. 2020

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

19 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Knell.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Jun. 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

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