phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Phrases, Sayings and Idioms Home > Discussion Forum

Re: Dumbbells

Posted by Mugball-us on October 18, 2004

In Reply to: Re: Dumbbells posted by TheFallen on October 18, 2004

: : : : : I was working out with free weights at the gym the other day and wondered when and why they came to be called dumbbells. It did occur to me that it could have something to do with the (steroetypically) low intellectual capacities of those who use them. That is, dumbbells using dumbbells...is there anything in that? Of course, if this theory turns out to be true, I really should consider changing my name.

: :
: : : : My etymology book indicates that this was historically apparatus for swinging like that fir swinging a church bell, but without the bell. By extension this came to also mean the 'dumb bells' that people exercise with.
: : : : :

: : : James is quite right, but should have mentioned that the "dumb" part of dumbbells means mute or silent. A bell-ringing apparatus without the bell is necessarily silent. SS

: : So where do Barbells come from? (and don't say a fish!)

: If we're to presume that in the world of weight-lifting, "bells" used to be the term for weights, as per the reasons described above, then it's not too much of a stretch to see how "bar-bells" (unsure about the hyphen) came into being.

: Aren't dumb-bells the ones you use two of, one for each hand, with a bar-bell being the classic weight-lifter's weight... the sort of thing you bench press?

See the link for a picture of a Nineteenth Century bell weight standard. It's easy to see how the heavier ones may have been adapted for exercise puposes.