tocsin

noun toc·sin \ ˈtäk-sən \

Definition of tocsin

1 : an alarm bell or the ringing of it
2 : a warning signal

tocsin was our Word of the Day on 06/13/2016. Hear the podcast!

Examples of tocsin in a Sentence

  1. the tocsin rang out, warning us of the approaching tornado

  2. noted that a sudden drop in a student's grades may be a tocsin of a serious personal problem

Did You Know?

Although it has occasionally been spelled like its homonym toxin, tocsin has nothing to do with poison. Rather, it is derived from the Middle French toquassen, which in turn comes from the Old Occitan tocasenh, and ultimately from the assumed Vulgar Latin verb toccare ("to ring a bell") and the Latin signum ("mark, sign"), which have given us, respectively, the English words touch and signal. Tocsin long referred to the ringing of church bells to signal events of importance to local villagers, including dangerous events such as attacks. Its use was eventually broadened to cover anything that signals danger or trouble.

Origin and Etymology of tocsin

Middle French toquassen, from Old Occitan tocasenh, from tocar to touch, ring a bell (from Vulgar Latin *toccare) + senh sign, bell, from Medieval Latin & Latin signum; Medieval Latin, bell, from Late Latin, ringing of a bell, from Latin, mark, sign — more at 1touch, sign

tocsin Synonyms

Synonyms
flag, signal
Related Words
red light; knell
Near Antonyms
all clear


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up tocsin? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

WORD OF THE DAY

allowing a liquid or gas to pass through

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Star Wars Words Quiz

  • cu-jedi-training
  • The bounty portion of bounty hunters (such as Boba Fett) comes from a Latin word meaning
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!