Q: Origin of "dumb-bell"?

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Mon Apr 12 14:51:58 UTC 2010

A correspondent asks:
>I heard a derivation for dumbbell as a literally a "dumb bell". That
>is one without a clapper used by bell ringers to practice and "work
>out" without making noise. And later it became workout equipment.

For both senses -- for practicing bell-ringing and for exercise --
the OED (1989) has the same date and "author" -- 1711, Addison's
Spectator.  Although for exercise, its first quotation is  [1711
ADDISON Spect. No. 115 {page}8 (Described under the name of
("giacu" is "iota (acute).")

Is there any more recent opinion on which came first?  (Bell-ringing
seems the obvious choice.)


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