Wondrous Words Wednesday: bells

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) and interesting (to us, again) words we encountered in our readings. See this week round-up at BermudaOnion’s blog!

I’m back with a whole series of new words! And to celebrate the new year I thought I would dedicate this first post to bells. My words come from The Geometry of Love by Margaret Visser.


A bell is a gong or cymbal ingeniously wrapped around its clapper, unless it has a hammer to strike it from without. “Ringing” a bell is achieved by swinging it; “chiming” is striking the bell’s stationary sides.

I had always wondered at the word “chimes”:

Chime: n. (1) a bell or a metal bar or tube tuned and used in a set to produce melodious ringing sounds when struck; a sound made by such an instrument. (2) Bell-ringing a stroke of the clapper against one or both sides of a scarcely moving bell.

Some more words (and etymologies) on the subject:

The other early users of bells in the West were the Irish. Their bells were hand-held, and forged and hammered rather than cast. […] It was the Irish, after their conversion in the fifth century, who, in helping to spread Christianity, spread with it the use of bells across Europe. Their name for a bell is cloc, which is also the root of the words Glocke in German and cloche in French. (Cloc also gave rise to the English word “cloak” for a bell-shaped garment.) […] The man who struck the bells, his job, and each period of time marked out for the whole community were all called by the same word: “watch.” This is the origin of our name for the timepiece we now wear on our wrists. The mechanical clock took its name from the word “bell”: cloc, Glocke, cloche and (Flemish) klok.


A set of bells is known as a “ring.”

And finally something I discovered here about an Italian word:

The Italian word for a bell tower is campanile, and for bell, campana, after the Italian province of Campania, because the best bronze foundries were once to be found there.

If you want to know more, check out these bell glossaries:

  • Christoph Paccard Bell Foundries’ “glossary of bells
  • A glossary of musical terms related to “The Sound of Bells“, created by Bill Hibbert, a scholar on the subject (his site is full of other information)
And to bring some Christmas spirit to this blog, here’s a video (hat tip: Diadhuit)


(All definitions are taken from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary © 2008 via WordReference.com unless otherwise stated.)


15 comments on “Wondrous Words Wednesday: bells

  1. That’s a very interesting post. My favourite bell word is campanologist- bell ringer- clearly related to campanile/campana.

  2. What a great post! I love that a set of bells is known as a ring. I find campanile interesting – there’s a hotel chain by that name in France.

  3. Very interesting post. I’m a fan of bells too. I especially love when the bell choir performs as church. Thanks for all the info.

  4. Thank you Melanie! If you like the song, you may want to check out this one:

    And if you like the artist, this one is genius:

    (The same person pointed me to all three, so thank you little sister.)

Ditelo con parole vostre/Let your words be heard

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