\ 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 For the company whose losses were already mounting due to stiff competition, the pandemic came as a death knell. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz, "Cleartrip is just the first pandemic casualty among India’s online travel agencies," 15 Apr. 2021 Scholars see Chaeronea as the death knell of the Classical Era of Greek history. Daniel Mendelsohn, The New Yorker, "Ancient Greece’s Army of Lovers," 12 Apr. 2021 Given the incremental damage that has been done to the once-surging Braun Strowman character, a WrestleMania loss to a 51-year-old Shane McMahon could have been the death knell to this character. Alfred Konuwa, Forbes, "WWE WrestleMania 37 Results: Braun Strowman Destroys Shane McMahon In Entertaining Cage Match," 11 Apr. 2021 The arrival of the coronavirus could have been our literal death knell, especially as our governor issued an executive order in March 2020 halting mass gatherings. Ashley Memory, Wired, "The Pandemic Nearly Shuttered My Church. Technology Saved It," 3 Mar. 2021 But the return of live music doesn’t have to be the death knell of virtual events. Raisa Bruner, Time, "The Livestream Show Will Go On. How COVID Has Changed Live Music—Forever," 30 Mar. 2021 The widespread opposition from members of his own party might be seen as a political death knell, especially for a Democrat in the #MeToo era. Caitlin Huey-burns And Grace Segers, CBS News, "Andrew Cuomo maintains support of New York voters, despite misconduct allegations," 23 Mar. 2021 Top Democrats said that the filibuster and other arcane Senate rules would continue to be a hotly debated issue as long as they were seen as a death knell for liberal ambitions. Emily Cochrane, New York Times, "With Demise of Wage Increase, Biden and Democrats Face Progressive Ire," 2 Mar. 2021 Despite Klain's public vote of confidence, the White House reportedly views Manchin's opposition as a potential death knell for the candidate and is floating alternatives. Carly Roman, Washington Examiner, "Biden chief of staff says administration will find another job for Neera Tanden if not confirmed for OMB," 24 Feb. 2021 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

24 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Knell.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 May. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on knell

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Nglish: Translation of knell for Spanish Speakers

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