sound the death knell,
also, toll the death knell
- cause a system, organization, or activity to fail or come to an end.
- the sounding of a bell to indicate someone’s passing.
used to indicate that something is about to fail or be destroyed.
- The shutdown of the local iron industry tolled the death knell for the village.
- Recent security updates in iOS sound the death knell for several popular apps.
- The resignation of such a loyal manager might sound the death knell for that store.
It is thought to have come from an old English tradition in which a third bell, known as the Lych Bell, is typically rung at a funeral. In that tradition, a passing bell was sounded to alert a clergyman that a person was dying so they could be brought to their bedside.
During the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, The Death Knell was formally written into legislation. In different parishes, the knell (bell) was rung in different ways, some to signify the deceased’s age and others to signify their sex (three times—three bells for males and three times—two bells for females).
The passing bell and death knell remained popular from the 1500s through the 19th century, even if the lych bell went out of use.
The noun “knell,” used for the ringing of a bell since at least A.D. 1000, is rarely heard today except in this figurative phrase.