Ring a bell

Ring a bell

Something that sounds familiar but is not completely remembered

This idiom, originating from the practice of ringing a bell to jog someone's memory, is used when someone hears something that sounds vaguely familiar, but they are unable to fully remember it. It can be applied to various situations, such as recognizing a person’s name but not quite placing where you’ve heard it, being reminded of a past event that you had forgotten about, or having a vague remembrance of a fact or piece of information that you can't quite fully recall.

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Use cases

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My student asked me about a grammar rule that seemed vaguely familiar to me. I told her, 'It rings a bell, but I will have to check my notes to make sure.'

In a team meeting, my co-worker brought up a project we had done a few years ago. I told him, 'The project name rings a bell, but I can't exactly remember the details.'

When I visited my old neighborhood, the sight of the park rang a bell - I had spent many afternoons there as a child.

During the history class, the teacher mentioned a war that rang a bell, so I raised my hand and asked the teacher to clarify.

My friend mentioned a restaurant that she wanted to go to, and the name rang a bell. I then remembered I had been there a few years ago.

On reading an old book, a quote from it rang a bell and I remembered that I had used the same quote in a school assignment.

A melody from the radio rang a bell and I realized it was my favorite song from my teenage years.

When the detective mentioned a suspect’s name, it rang a bell for the policeman, because he had arrested the same person for a petty crime a while ago.

My friend was talking about a movie he had recently watched. The plot rang a bell, but I couldn't remember the name of the movie.

During the interview, the interviewer mentioned a software that rang a bell, but I couldn't recall where I had used it before.

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