a signal, especially of alarm, sounded on a bell or bells.
a bell used to sound an alarm.

1580–90; < Middle French < Provençal tocasenh literally, (it) strikes (the) bell, equivalent to toca, 3rd singular present of tocar to strike, touch + senh bell, sign Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
tocsin (ˈtɒksɪn)
1.  an alarm or warning signal, esp one sounded on a bell
2.  an alarm bell
[C16: from French, from Old French toquassen, from Old Provençal tocasenh, from tocar to touch + senh bell, from Latin signum]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

"alarm bell," 1586, from M.Fr. toquassen "an alarm bell, the ringing of an alarm bell" (1372), from O.Prov. tocasenh, from tocar "to strike" (from V.L. *toccare "strike a bell;" see touch) + senh "bell, bell note," from L.L. signum "bell, ringing of a bell," in L. "mark, signal."
The current Eng. spelling is from 1794, adopted from modern Fr.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
In every city throughout the country thousands have watched eagerly for the sounding of the tocsin.
The tocsin sounds from the neighboring church, people run.
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