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[bel-ee] /ˈbɛl i/
noun, plural bellies.
the front or under part of a vertebrate body from the breastbone to the pelvis, containing the abdominal viscera; the abdomen.
the stomach with its adjuncts.
appetite or capacity for food; gluttony.
the womb.
the inside or interior of anything:
the belly of a ship.
a protuberant or bulging surface of anything:
the belly of a flask.
Anatomy. the fleshy part of a muscle.
the front, inner, or under surface or part, as distinguished from the back.
the front surface of a violin or similar instrument.
a bulge on a vertical surface of fresh concrete.
the underpart of the fuselage of an airplane.
verb (used with object), bellied, bellying.
to fill out; swell:
Wind bellied the sails.
verb (used without object), bellied, bellying.
to swell out:
Sails bellying in the wind.
to crawl on one's belly:
soldiers bellying through a rice paddy.
Verb phrases
belly up, Informal.
  1. to approach closely, especially until one is in physical contact:
    to belly up to a bar.
  2. to curry favor from:
    Would you have gotten the promotion if you hadn't bellied up to the boss?
go / turn belly up, Informal. to come to an end; die; fail:
After years of barely surviving on donations, the neighborhood social club finally went belly up.
Origin of belly
before 950; Middle English bely, Old English belig, belg bag, skin; cognate with German Balg, Gothic balgs, Old Norse belgr sack; akin to Welsh bol(a), boly, Irish bolg sack, belly, bellows, Serbo-Croatian blàzina, Latvian pabàlsts, Avestan barəziš-, Persian bālish cushion
Related forms
bellylike, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for belly up
Contemporary Examples
  • For the best that Barcelona has to offer, belly up to Pinotxo Bar, a tiny place with a gracious host.

Historical Examples
  • The gull flapped his wings violently once or twice, then turned over and floated away, belly up, quite dead.

    The Land's End W. H. Hudson
  • Still, one fine day they'll slit his belly up, by God they will!

    Pelle the Conqueror, Complete Martin Anderson Nexo
  • But at length she floated to the surface, unconscious, her belly up, as if dead.

    American Hero-Myths Daniel G. Brinton
  • A slip would have sent them, belly up, down the toboggan-slide, with a drop into an unknown depth at the end.

    Pony Tracks Frederic Remington
  • Fill the other part with a plum-pudding; sew the belly up, and bake it.

  • The piano in Bezuquet's shop mouldered away under a green fungus, and the Spanish flies dried upon it, belly up.

    Tartarin of Tarascon Alphonse Daudet
  • A large fish floated on the water, belly up; fish washed ashore are used by the people as medicine.

  • He started crawling on his belly up out of the draw to the crest of the hog's back.

    The Pride of Palomar Peter B. Kyne
  • "Your ponies floated, belly up, down the river moons ago," said Matthews.

    The Plow-Woman Eleanor Gates
British Dictionary definitions for belly up


noun (pl) -lies
the lower or front part of the body of a vertebrate, containing the intestines and other abdominal organs; abdomen related adjective ventral
the stomach, esp when regarded as the seat of gluttony
a part, line, or structure that bulges deeply: the belly of a sail
the inside or interior cavity of something: the belly of a ship
the front or inner part or underside of something
the surface of a stringed musical instrument over which the strings are stretched
the thick central part of certain muscles
(Austral & NZ) the wool from a sheep's belly
(tanning) the portion of a hide or skin on the underpart of an animal
(archery) the surface of the bow next to the bowstring
(archaic) the womb
(informal) go belly up, to die, fail, or come to an end
verb -lies, -lying, -lied
to swell out or cause to swell out; bulge
Word Origin
Old English belig; related to Old High German balg, Old Irish bolg sack, Sanskrit barhi chaff
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 belly up



Old English belg, bylg (West Saxon), bælg (Anglian) "leather bag, purse, bellows," from Proto-Germanic *balgiz "bag" (cf. Old Norse belgr "bag, bellows," bylgja "billow," Gothic balgs "wineskin"), from PIE *bholgh-, from root *bhelgh- "to swell," an extension of *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell" (see bole). Meaning shifted to "body" (late 13c.), then focused to "abdomen" (mid-14c.). Meaning "bulging part or concave surface of anything" is 1590s. The West Germanic root had a figurative or extended sense of "anger, arrogance" (cf. Old English bolgenmod "enraged;" belgan (v.) "to become angry").

Indo-European languages commonly use the same word for both the external belly and the internal (stomach, womb, etc.), but the distinction of external and internal is somewhat present in English belly/stomach; Greek gastr- (see gastric) in classical language denoted the paunch or belly, while modern science uses it only in reference to the stomach as an organ. Fastidious avoidance of belly in speech and writing (compensated for by stretching the senses of imported stomach and abdomen, baby-talk tummy and misappropriated midriff) began late 18c. and the word was banished from Bibles in many early 19c. editions. Belly punch (n.) is attested from 1811.


"to swell out," 1620s, from belly (n.). Related: Bellied; bellying. Old English belgan meant "to be or become angry" (a figurative sense). A comparable Greek verb-from-noun, gastrizein, meant "to hit (someone) in the belly."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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belly up in Medicine

belly bel·ly (běl'ē)

  1. See abdomen.

  2. The stomach.

  3. The womb; the uterus.

  4. The bulging, central part of a muscle. Also called venter.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for belly up

belly up

adjective phrase

Dead or ruined;

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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belly up in the Bible

the seat of the carnal affections (Titus 1:12; Phil. 3:19; Rom. 16:18). The word is used symbolically for the heart (Prov. 18:8; 20:27; 22:18, marg.). The "belly of hell" signifies the grave or underworld (Jonah 2:2).

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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Idioms and Phrases with belly up


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