AskDefine | Define tocsin

Dictionary Definition



1 the sound of an alarm (usually a bell) [syn: alarm bell]
2 a bell used to sound an alarm [syn: warning bell]

User Contributed Dictionary



From toquesain (modern tocsin), from tocasenh, from tocar ‘strike, touch’ + senh ‘bell’.




  1. a signal sounded by a bell or bells, especially an alarm
    • 1807: At half-past one, on the sounding of the tocsin (or bell of the public-house) about fifteen persons were collected, when the Rev. J. Bromley was called to the chair — The Times, 23 Aug 1804, p.3 col. C
    • 1970: As she entered the projection theatre the soundtrack reverberated across the sculpture garden, a melancholy tocsin modulated by Talbert’s less and less coherent commentary. — JG Ballard, The Atrocity Exhibition




From toquesain, from tocasenh, from tocar ‘strike, touch’ + senh ‘bell’.


  • /tɔksɛ̃/


  1. an alarm, a tocsin

Extensive Definition

A tocsin consists of a signal of alarm given by the ringing of a bell, and hence any warning or danger signal.
The earliest form of the word in English appears as toclesaine, borrowed from the Old French touque-sain (from toquer (to strike), compare toucher), combined with sin (modern French signe (a signal) from the Latin signum). The use of touch and its cognate forms with the idea of giving a sound also appears in the word tucket, Italian toccata, which probably originally meant a signal given by tap of drum, but subsequently always applied to a flourish or fanfare on a trumpet.
Tocsin was the title of a radical newspaper published in Australia around the turn of the nineteenth century, with a masthead designed by Norman Lindsay. It was anti-federation.
Tocsin is the title of the final movement of Shostakovich's Eleventh Symphony. It was also the name of the second album of 80s goth rock band Xmal Deutschland.
Tocsin was the code name for the nuclear attack simulation performed by the government of Canada on Nov. 13, 1961
It is also the title of a Fool's Garden song from their album Dish of the Day.

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Klaxon, Mayday, SOS, air-raid alarm, alarm, alarm bell, alarm clock, alarm signal, alarum, alert, all clear, beacon, blinking light, burglar alarm, buzzer, crostarie, fiery cross, fire alarm, fire bell, fire flag, five-minute gun, flashing light, fog bell, fog signal, foghorn, gale warning, hooter, horn, hue and cry, hurricane warning, lighthouse, note of alarm, occulting light, police whistle, sign, signal, signal of distress, siren, small-craft warning, still alarm, storm cone, storm flag, storm warning, two-minute gun, upside-down flag, whistle
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