bel·fry (bĕl’frē)
n. pl. bel·fries 1) A bell tower, especially one attached to a building. 2) The part of a tower or steeple in which bells are hung.
[Middle English belfrei, from Old North French belfroi, alteration of Old French berfrei, berfroi; see bhergh-2.]
bel’fried adj.
Word History: The words bell and belfry seem obviously related, but in fact the bel- portion of belfry had nothing to do with bells until comparatively recently. Belfry goes back to a compound formed in the prehistoric common ancestor of the Germanic languages. It is generally agreed that the second part of this compound is the element *frij-, meaning "peace, safety." The first element is either *bergan, "to protect," which would yield a compound meaning "a defensive place of shelter," or *berg-, "a high place," which would yield a compound meaning "a high place of safety, tower." Whatever the meaning of the original Germanic source, its Old French descendant berfrei, which first meant "siege tower," came to mean "watchtower." Presumably because bells were used in these towers, the word was applied to bell towers as well. The Old North French alteration belfroi, which must have reminded Middle English speakers of their native word belle (our bell), entered Middle English with the sense "bell tower."

Word Histories. 2014.


Look at other dictionaries:

  • Belfry — Lage in Montana …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Belfry — • The upper part of the tower or steeple of a church, for the reception of the bells; or a detached tower containing bells, as the campanile of the Italians Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Belfry     Belfry …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Belfry — Belfry, MT U.S. Census Designated Place in Montana Population (2000): 219 Housing Units (2000): 119 Land area (2000): 1.902815 sq. miles (4.928268 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 1.902815 sq.… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • Belfry, MT — U.S. Census Designated Place in Montana Population (2000): 219 Housing Units (2000): 119 Land area (2000): 1.902815 sq. miles (4.928268 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 1.902815 sq. miles… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • Belfry — Bel fry, n. [OE. berfray movable tower used in sieges, OF. berfreit, berfroit, F. beffroi, fr. MHG. bervrit, bercvrit, G. bergfriede, fr. MHG. bergen to protect (G. bergen to conceal) + vride peace, protection, G. friede peace; in compounds often …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • belfry — c.1400, siege tower (late 13c. in Anglo Latin with a sense bell tower ), from O.N.Fr. berfroi movable siege tower (Mod.Fr. beffroi), from M.H.G. bercfrit protecting shelter, lit. that which watches over peace, from bergen to protect (see BURY (Cf …   Etymology dictionary

  • belfry — [n] tower; part of tower bell tower, campanile, carillon, clocher, cupola, dome, head, minaret, spire, steeple, turret; concept 440 …   New thesaurus

  • belfry — ► NOUN (pl. belfries) ▪ the place in a bell tower or steeple in which bells are housed. ORIGIN Old French belfrei …   English terms dictionary

  • belfry — [bel′frē] n. pl. belfries [ME belfrei, altered by assoc. with belle ( BELL1) < berfrai < OFr berfroi < OHG bergfrid, lit., protector of peace < bergen, to protect (see BURY) + frid, peace] 1. a movable tower used in ancient warfare… …   English World dictionary

  • Belfry — The term belfry has a variety of uses:*Bell tower, an architectural term *Belfry, a type of medieval siege tower *Belfry, Montana, a town in the United States *The Belfry, an English golf club * Belfry , a play by Billy Roche, third part of The… …   Wikipedia

  • belfry — /bel free/, n., pl. belfries. 1. a bell tower, either attached to a church or other building or standing apart. 2. the part of a steeple or other structure in which a bell is hung. 3. a frame of timberwork that holds or encloses a bell. 4. Slang …   Universalium

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