noun1 : a bell tower; especially : one surmounting or attached to another structure 2 : a room or framework for enclosing a bell 3 : head
“Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch Of the North Church tower as a signal light,— One if by land, and two if by sea; And I on the opposite shore will be….” — From Henry Wadworth Longfellow’s 1860 poem “Paul Revere’s Ride”
“College representatives recently relocated a colony, which was estimated to comprise between 1,500 and 2,000 big brown bats, from the building’s iconic bell tower.… College officials are endeavoring to provide the belfry’s former occupants with new accommodations.” — From an article by Matthew Stewart in the Maryville Daily Times (Maryville, Tennessee), November 24, 2013
Did you know?
Surprisingly, “belfry” does not come from “bell,” and early belfries did not contain bells at all. “Belfry” comes from “berfrey,” a medieval term for a wooden tower used in sieges. The structure could be rolled up to a fortification wall so that warriors hidden inside could storm the battlements. Over time, the term was applied to other types of shelters and towers, many of which had bells in them. Through association, people began spelling “berfrey” as “bellfrey,” then as “belfrey” and later “belfry.” On a more metaphorical note, someone who has “bats in the belfry” is crazy or eccentric. This phrase is responsible for the use of “bats” for “crazy” (“Are you completely bats?”) and the occasional use of “belfry” for “head” (“He’s not quite right in the belfry”).