death knell

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English[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]

Noun[edit]

death knell (plural death knells)

  1. The tolling of a bell announcing death.
    • 1873, Thomas Hardy, A Pair of Blue Eyes, ch. 25:
      The sound was the stroke of a bell from the tower of East Endelstow Church. . . . The death-knell of an inhabitant of the eastern parish was being tolled.
    • 1890, Ambrose Bierce, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, ch. 1:
      Its recurrence was regular, but as slow as the tolling of a death-knell.
  2. (idiomatic, by extension) A sign or omen foretelling the death or destruction of something.
    • 1901, Upton Sinclair, King Midas, ch. 10:
      The thought was a death-knell to Helen's last hope.
    • 2004, Jamie James, "The Rise of a Musical Superpower," Time, 28 June:
      "It is the death knell of an orchestra if it doesn't have its own home," he says.

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