With Bells On - Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for the origin and meaning of the phrase "with bells on?" This post unpacks everything you need to know about this idiomatic expression.

With Bells On Meaning

The meaning of the idiomatic phrase "with bells on" refers to your eagerness to attend an event or your attitude toward completing a task.

If you tell someone that you'll arrive with your bells on at their event, you're telling them that you'll come in your best attire. It refers to the act of dressing up for an engagement to show your enthusiasm for the event.

With Bells On Example Usage

Sally: "Are you coming through to the Met Gala later tonight? There's going to be so many A-listers and politicians there, and we want to make a good impression with these people."

Angela: "For sure, I know we'll have to be looking our best for everyone and the cameras. I'll be there with my bells on; I can't wait."


Jeff: "We're happy you guys are coming through for the bachelor party. Remember, we're going to the club, so wear a suit if you can."

Larry: "Don't worry, my guy, I understand you want me looking my best; I'll be there with bells on for sure."


Tom: "I can't wait to introduce you to my folks this weekend. They're a bit of a traditional family, so wear something semi-formal, and they'll think you're so classy."

Kim: "Don't worry, babe, I know you want me to make a good impression. I have my outfit planned already; I'll arrive with bells on."

With Bells On Origin

No one knows the origin of the phrase "with bells on." However, some language experts suggest that the term refers to the early transportation era of the United States. During these times, settlers would use a horse-drawn wagon to move goods around the country.

The horses would receive a headdress featuring bells fitted across the eyes and sides of the horses' cheeks. The bells would serve t keep flies away from the horse's eyes and announce the party before they arrive at their destination.

"Conestoga Wagon," a work by George Stumway, penned between 1750 to 1850, says that the wagon drivers would take pride in the bell arrangements, personalizing them to their tastes. If the traveler got stuck during their trip, other settlers providing rescue would often request the horse bells for payment.

As a result, arriving at your destination with the bells still on your horse meant a successful trip and cause for satisfaction.

Phrases Similar to With Bells On

  • Dressed to the nines.
  • I'm amped.
  • I'll give my best.

Phrases Opposite to With Bells On

  • Who cares?
  • Lackluster response.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • With bells on.
  • With my bells on.
  • With the bells on.

Ways People May Say With Bells On Incorrectly

To tell someone that you'll "be there with bells on" means that you're eager to participate and give your best effort to an event or task. Therefore, using it to describe your apathy at a situation or anxiety for attending an event would be the incorrect use of the phrase.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase With Bells On

You'll use the phrase "with bells on" to describe your eagerness to participate in a forthcoming event. You can use it in social and professional settings, and most people across all generations will understand what you mean. You can use the phrase to describe your enthusiasm for the forthcoming event or task or how you plan to dress up for the event in your best attire. On some occasions, you can use the phrase with a sarcastic connotation.

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