Understanding the Idiom: "bear away the bell" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: English
Etymology: A bell was once a traditional prize in races.

When it comes to idioms, they can often be a source of confusion for those who are not familiar with them. One such idiom is “bear away the bell”. This phrase has been used for centuries and is still commonly heard today. It’s a metaphorical expression that refers to being victorious or coming out on top in a competition or contest.

The origins of this idiom are unclear, but it’s believed to have originated from medieval times when bells were used as prizes in competitions. The winner would bear away the bell as a symbol of their victory. Over time, this phrase evolved into its current meaning.

Today, “bear away the bell” is commonly used in sports and other competitive settings. It can also be used more broadly to describe any situation where someone emerges as the clear winner or leader.

Origins and Historical Context of the Idiom “bear away the bell”

The idiom “bear away the bell” is a phrase that has been used for centuries, with its origins dating back to medieval times. It is believed that this expression originated from the practice of awarding a bell to the winner of a race or competition. The winner would then be responsible for carrying the bell home, which was seen as an honor and symbol of victory.

Over time, this phrase evolved to mean being recognized as the best or most successful in a particular field or endeavor. It can refer to anything from sports competitions to academic achievements, where one person stands out above all others.

In historical context, bells were often used as symbols of power and authority. They were rung to signal important events such as religious ceremonies or public announcements. In medieval Europe, church bells were also used as alarms during times of danger such as fires or invasions.

As society progressed and technology advanced, bells became less significant in everyday life but remained an enduring symbol of achievement and recognition. Today, we continue to use this idiom when referring to someone who has achieved great success in their chosen field.

Usage and Variations of the Idiom “bear away the bell”


  • Carry off the palm
  • Win the day
  • Come out on top
  • Take the cake

These are some of the variations that have been used in place of “bear away the bell.” They all convey a similar meaning, which is to emerge victorious or be recognized as superior in a given situation.

Usage Examples

Here are some examples of how this idiom can be used in different situations:

  1. In sports: After an intense game, one team may bear away the bell by winning.

  2. In politics: A candidate who wins an election by a large margin can be said to have carried off the palm.

  3. In business: A company that dominates its industry can be said to come out on top or take the cake.

In each example, there is a clear winner or leader who bears away the bell. It’s important to note that this idiom is usually used when there is competition involved.

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Idiom “bear away the bell”


Some synonyms for “bear away the bell” include:

– Win

– Triumph

– Prevail

– Succeed

These words all convey a sense of achieving victory or success in a competition or endeavor. They can be used interchangeably with “bear away the bell” in certain contexts.


On the other hand, some antonyms for “bear away the bell” might include:

– Lose

– Fail

– Come up short

These words represent an opposite outcome to winning or succeeding. While they are not exact opposites of “bear away the bell”, they provide a contrast that highlights what it means to achieve victory.

Cultural Insights

The phrase “bear away the bell” has its origins in medieval Europe, where bells were often awarded as prizes in competitions such as races or games. The winner would literally bear (carry) home the prize – hence the expression.

Today, this idiom is still used primarily in British English and is most commonly associated with academic achievement. In some schools and universities, students who achieve top marks on exams may be said to have “borne away the bell”.

Understanding these cultural nuances can help non-native speakers better grasp when and how to use idiomatic expressions like “bear away the bell”.

Practical Exercises for Mastering the Idiom “Bear Away the Bell”

1. Fill in the Blanks: In this exercise, you will be presented with a sentence that contains a blank space where the idiom “bear away the bell” should be inserted. Your task is to fill in the blank with the correct form of this idiom.

Example: She was so confident that she would ___________ at the competition.

Answer: bear away the bell

2. Match Game: This exercise requires you to match sentences containing different forms of “bear away the bell” with their corresponding meanings.


Sentence 1: John bore away the bell at last year’s science fair.

Sentence 2: The team hopes to bear away the bell at next week’s tournament.

Meaning A: To win or achieve first place

Meaning B: To be recognized as superior or outstanding

Match Sentence 1 with Meaning A and Sentence 2 with Meaning B.

3. Role-Play Exercise: In this exercise, you will practice using “bear away the bell” in a conversation. You can do this alone or with a partner. Imagine yourself participating in an event where there is a prize for first place, such as a cooking competition or sports tournament. Use “bear away the bell” appropriately during your conversation about winning or losing.

These practical exercises will help you become more comfortable using “bear away from bell.” With regular practice, you’ll soon find yourself incorporating this idiomatic expression into your everyday conversations effortlessly!

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Idiom “bear away the bell”

Mistake #1: Misusing “Bear Away”

The phrase “bear away” means to win or achieve something. However, it’s important to use this phrase correctly in relation to the idiom “bear away the bell”. The two phrases should not be used interchangeably as they have different meanings.

Mistake #2: Not Understanding the Origin of the Idiom

The origin of an idiom can often provide insight into its meaning and proper usage. In the case of “bear away the bell”, it comes from a tradition in medieval times where bells were awarded as prizes for competitions such as races or wrestling matches. The winner would bear (carry) away the prize bell as a symbol of their victory.

Mistake Solution
Misusing “Bear Away” Use “bear away” correctly in relation to winning or achieving something.
Not Understanding Origin Familiarize yourself with an idiom’s origin for better understanding and usage.
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