What does the idiom "ring a bell" mean?

Although the meanings of the words in them do not make any sense when examined one by one, the word groups that are shaped according to the cultural roots of the language and that make sense as a whole are called idioms. ring a bell meaning, in what situations is it used?

Meaning of "ring a bell"


The phrase ‘ring a bell’ is a very common idiom which is mainly used as a way of saying that a person recognizes or remembers something. It is usually used to express that the person has heard of something before, even if they cannot remember the exact details. This phrase is often used as a question in order to jog a person’s memory about a certain subject. When used this way, the phrase implies that the person is expected to remember or recognize something in response.


The phrase ‘ring a bell’ is believed to have originated in the 1800s, although it was not popularized until the early 1900s. It is thought to be derived from the ringing of bells to signal something, such as the start of a church service or a warning of danger. This ringing of bells could be used to help jog one’s memory and remind them of something. It is also believed that the phrase has a second meaning which is related to the ringing of a bell when a person rings a doorbell, as a reminder to identify who is at the door.


The phrase ‘ring a bell’ is mainly used as an informal phrase to express that a person remembers or recognizes something. This phrase is often used in the form of a question, to ask if the person being spoken to recognizes or remembers something. It can also be used in the form of a statement, to indicate that the speaker recognizes something that has been mentioned. For example, if someone mentions a certain movie, one could say ‘That rings a bell’ to show that they have heard of the movie before.

Example Sentences

  • Do the names Robert and Sarah ring a bell? I heard they were coming to the party.
  • That name rings a bell. Have we met before?
  • I heard about this restaurant, but the name doesn't ring a bell. Can you remind me what it's called?
  • I'm not sure if I've heard of that artist before, but the name does ring a bell.

The meanings of the words in the "ring a bell" idiom

The power of idioms transcends languages!

"Putting the cart before the horse" is an English idiom that means doing things in the wrong order. In Russian, the similar idiom is "Кладёт колесо впереди лошади," which translates to "Putting the cart before the horse." This idiom emphasizes the idea that doing things in the wrong order can lead to confusion and problems down the line.


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