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Idiom

Rings a Bell: Origin and Meaning

Meaning
Something that sounds familiar to you or causes you to remember something or someone (usually when you cannot remember the exact details).
Origin
Rings a bellBefore most people had watches or clocks, bells were used as a signal to alert people of events, for example the start of church or the start of school. Someone would ring a bell to remind people of something taking place. Therefore, if someone asks you if a name “rings a bell”, they are asking if the name reminds you of anything, in the same way that hearing a bell used to remind people of something.
Examples
“The name of the restaurant rings a bell but I’m not sure if I’ve actually been there. Someone may have told me about it.”

“Does the name Peter Johnson ring a bell? I’m sure we’ve met him but I can’t remember where.”

James: “Are you free on June 6th? Some people are coming to our house for dinner and we’d love if you and Anna could come.”
Martin: “Thanks James, that sounds great. The date rings a bell though but I can’t remember why. I’ll check with Anna later and let you know.”

You can also use the opposite:
“Sorry, but that name really doesn’t ring a bell. I don’t think I’ve met him before.”