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[bel-free] /ˈbɛl fri/
noun, plural belfries.
a bell tower, either attached to a church or other building or standing apart.
the part of a steeple or other structure in which a bell is hung.
a frame of timberwork that holds or encloses a bell.
Slang. head; mind:
a belfry full of curious notions.
have bats in one's belfry. bat2 (def 3).
Origin of belfry
1225-75; Middle English belfray, apparently blend of earlier berfray (< Middle French < Germanic) and Medieval Latin belfredus, dissimilated variant of berefredus < Germanic; compare Middle High German ber(c) frit, equivalent to berc defense, protection, refuge (cognate with Old English gebeorg; see harbor) + frit peace, (place of) safety (cognate with Old English frith) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for belfry
  • He is represented holding in his right hand a sceptre, and in his left a building with a tower or belfry.
  • The top of the tower contains a belfry for the clock chimes.
  • Now, only a chunk of the belfry remains standing to mark the site.
  • The school's tin roof was also ripped off, and the belfry atop the four-story building was shoved down into the third story.
  • When he turned his eye to fruit juice, his neighbours at home said he had bats in his belfry.
  • The devil gets into the belfry on the vicar's skirts.
  • He brought almost all of his troops safely back, but on the last day was shot and killed by someone in a church belfry.
  • belfry considers all of its lines to be gathering or distribution.
  • Whether they are in your belfry or not, bats get a bad rap.
  • Daytime roost is usually an evergreen tree, belfry or barn.
British Dictionary definitions for belfry


noun (pl) -fries
the part of a tower or steeple in which bells are hung
a tower or steeple Compare campanile
the timber framework inside a tower or steeple on which bells are hung
(formerly) a movable tower for attacking fortifications
Word Origin
C13: from Old French berfrei, of Germanic origin; compare Middle High German bercfrit fortified tower, Medieval Latin berfredus tower
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for belfry

c.1400, "siege tower" (late 13c. in Anglo-Latin with a sense "bell tower"), from Old North French berfroi "movable siege tower" (Modern French beffroi), from Middle High German bercfrit "protecting shelter," literally "that which watches over peace," from bergen "to protect" (see bury) + 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 dissimilation or by association with bell (n.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for belfry


Related Terms

have bats in one's belfry

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with belfry


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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