1225-75;Middle Englishbelfray, apparently blend of earlier berfray (< Middle French < Germanic) and Medieval Latinbelfredus, dissimilated variant of berefredus < Germanic; compare Middle High Germanber(c) frit, equivalent to berc defense, protection, refuge (cognate with Old Englishgebeorg; see harbor) + frit peace, (place of) safety (cognate with Old Englishfrith)
late 13c., "siege tower," from O.N.Fr. berfroi "movable siege tower" (Mod.Fr. beffroi), from M.H.G. bercfrit "protecting shelter," lit. "that which watches over peace," from bergen "to protect" + frid "peace." Originally a wooden siege tower on wheels ("free" to move); it came to be used for chime towers (mid-15c.), which at first often were detached from church buildings (as the Campanile on Plaza San Marco in Venice). Spelling altered by association with bell.