Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bell n.1

1. [late 16C] the penis.

2. [19C+] o’clock, usu. in pl., e.g. eight bells, eight o’clock [naut. use; a bell was struck to indicate the change in the day’s watches].

3. [1930s] (US black) the clitoris.

4. [1960s] (US black) personal notoriety, reputation [the image of a bell around a cat’s neck, announcing its imminent arrival].

5. [1970s] (US) a hotel doorman; a bellboy [? abbr. bell captain].

6. [2010s] (UK Black) a bullet.

7. see bell end n.

8. see button n.1 (1c)

In compounds

bell end (n.)

see separate entry.

bell shiner (n.) [bell end n. (1) + SE shine]

[1990s+] homosexual anal intercourse.

bell topped (adj.) [bell end n. (1) + SE topped]

[late 19C+] describing a penis that is larger at the top than it is at the base.

SE in slang uses

In derivatives

beller (n.) [it ‘rings out’]

[1970s] (US) a loud laugh.

belling (n.) [the shape of a bell]

[late 19C] the head of the penis.

In compounds

bell cow (n.)

see separate entry.

bell-foundered (adj.) [the tolling of the execution bell at Newgate]

[mid-19C] (UK Und.) condemned to death.

bellhop (n.) (also bellhopper) [they ‘hop to it’ when the desk clerk rings the bell]

[late 19C+] (US) a hotel doorman, a bell-boy.

bellman (n.)

[1970s+] (UK Und.) the specialist who silences electronic alarm systems.

bell-ringer (n.) [the fairground attraction in which one proves one’s strength by hammering on a spring and, if successful, ringing a bell]

[1930s–60s] (US) a great success; thus bell-ringing adj.

bell rope (n.)

1. [mid-19C] a fashionable hairstyle in which men wore their hair twisted into two ropes, on each side of the face [pun, such a hairstyle is designed to ‘draw the belles’].

2. [1960s–70s] (US) the penis [it gets ‘pulled’].

bell-topper (n.) [topper n.3 (2)]

[mid-19C–1940s] (Aus./N.Z.) a top hat.

bell-wether (n.)

see separate entry.

In phrases

belled up (adj.)

[1970s] in possession of a burglar alarm.

bells and whistles (n.)

[1960s+] (orig. US) embellishments, gimmicks, esp. used in advertising copy to ‘talk up’ a product that, bereft of such add-ons, would have little to offer over its peers.

bell the cat (v.)

see separate entry.

crack a bell (v.) [the belief that it is necessary to remain silent while casting a bell; the slightest sound may produce a flaw]

[late 19C] to tell a secret, to betray a confidence.

crack the bell (v.) [a cracked bell is useless as it cannot ring]

[late 19C–1900s] to muddle, to ruin, to blunder.

from the bell (adv.) [boxing imagery, a bell sounds the beginning of a new round]

[1970s] (orig. US) from the beginning.

give someone a bell (v.)

[1930s+] to call on the telephone.

hop bells (v.) [backf. f. bellhop ]

[late 19C-1960s] (US) to work as a hotel porter.

knock seven bells out of (v.) (also knock eight bells out of, . . . ten bells out of)

[mid-19C+] to beat viciously.

on the bell

1. [early 19C] on credit.

2. [1970s+] (Scot.) buying (a round of drinks).

ring a bell (v.)

[1930s+] to remind one of something, to jog one’s memory.

ring someone’s bell (v.)

1. [1910s+] to make a woman orgasm during intercourse.

2. [1930s+] to make a woman pregnant.

3. [1930s+] to appeal to, to impress, to carry any weight with.

4. [1940s+] (US, also blow someone’s horn) to attract sexually, e.g. She really rings my bell.

5. [1960s+] (orig. US, also ring someone’s hat) to concuss, esp. in US football use when this may well follow a clash of helmets.

ring the bell (v.) [the ‘try-your-strength’ machine found at a trad. fairground]

[20C+] to carry off the prize; to be the best of a lot; to be acquitted.

ring the bell on (v.) (also ring the tinkler on) [boxing imagery]

[1900s–40s] (US) to dismiss, to declare useless.

saved by the bell (adj.) [boxing imagery; a bell sounds at the end of a round]

[1940s+] (US) rescued or relieved at the last minute.

scare seven bells out of (v.)

[1940s+] to terrify.

toll the bell on (v.) [the church bell that tolls the death-knell]

[1900s] to put an end to, to forbid.

with bells on [? the bells that adorned a jester’s outfit or the practice in the Old West of outfitting the lead animals of a freight-hauling team with bells, to announce their presence and thus minimize accidents]

1. [late 19C+] in a joyous mood, enthusiastic.

2. [20C+] (US, also with bells) definitely, without doubt; as a negative retort.

3. [1960s+] (also with spangles) with melodramatic, lurid and otherwise exciting embellishments.