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!
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP
Examples of tocsin in a Sentence
the tocsin rang out, warning us of the approaching tornado
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
First Known Use: 1586See Words from the same year
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).