the sound made by a bell rung slowly, especially for a death or a funeral.
a sound or sign announcing the death of a person or the end, extinction, failure, etc., of something: the knell of parting day.
any mournful sound.
verb (used without object)
to sound, as a bell, especially a funeral bell.
to give forth a mournful, ominous, or warning sound.
verb (used with object)
to proclaim or summon by, or as if by, a bell.

before 950; (noun) Middle English knel, Old English cynll; (v.) Middle English knellen, knyllen, Old English cynllan; cognate with Old Norse knylla to beat, strike; akin to Dutch knal bang, knallen to bang, German Knall explosion, knallen to explode

unknelled, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
knell (nɛl)
1.  the sound of a bell rung to announce a death or a funeral
2.  something that precipitates or indicates death or destruction
3.  (intr) to ring a knell
4.  (tr) to proclaim or announce by or as if by a tolling bell
[Old English cnyll; related to Middle High German knüllen to strike, Dutch knallen to bang]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Main Entry:  knell1
Part of Speech:  n
Definition:  a bell struck slowly and solemnly; this ominous sound
Etymology:  Old English cnyllan
Main Entry:  knell1
Part of Speech:  v
Definition:  to summon or announce with a bell; toll
Etymology:  Old English cnyllan
Usage:  transitive
Main Entry:  knell2
Part of Speech:  n
Definition:  an indication of failure
Etymology:  Old English cnyllan
Main Entry:  knell2
Part of Speech:  v
Definition:  to ring slowly and solemnly; to make an ominous sound
Etymology:  Old English cnyllan
Usage:  transitive's 21st Century Lexicon
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Word Origin & History

O.E. cnyll "sound made by a bell when struck or rung slowly," of imitative origin. Cf. M.H.G. erknellen "to resound," O.E. cnyllan. The Welsh cnull "death-bell" appears to be a borrowing from Eng. For vowel evolution, see bury.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


see death knell.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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