"bell-ringer, one employed to ring church or processional bells," early 15c. (c. 1200 as a surname), agent noun from ring (v.1). An early 13c. text has belle ringestre "nun who rings the convent bell."
In quoits (and by extension, horseshoes), "a throw cast so as to encircle the pin," from 1863, from ring (v.2).
Expression be a dead ringer for "resemble closely" (1891) preserves ringer in the horse-racing slang sense of "a fast horse entered fraudulently in a race in place of a slow one." The verb to ring in reference to this is attested from 1812, possibly from British ring in "substitute, exchange," via ring the changes, "substitute counterfeit money for good," a pun on ring the changes in the sense of "play the regular series of variations in a peal of bells" (1610s). The meaning "an expert" is recorded from 1918, Australian slang, from earlier meaning "man who shears the most sheep per day" (1871).
"attach a bell to," late 14c., from bell (n.). Related: Belled; belling. Allusions to the story of the mice that undertook to bell the cat (the better to hear it coming) date to late 14c.
"hollow metallic instrument which rings when struck," Old English belle, which has cognates in Middle Dutch belle, Middle Low German belle but is not found elsewhere in Germanic (except as a borrowing); perhaps from an imitative PIE root *bhel- "to sound, roar" (compare Old English bellan "to roar," and see bellow).
As a division of daily time aboard a ship, by 1804, from its being marked by bells struck every half hour. The statistical bell curve is by 1920, said to have been coined 1870s in French. Of glasses in the shape of a bell from 1640s. Bell pepper is from 1707, also so called for its shape. Bell, book, and candle is a reference to a form of excommunication (the bells were rung out of order and all together to signify the loss of grace and order in the soul of the excommunicated).
To ring a bell "awaken a memory" (1934) is perhaps a reference to Pavlovian experiments; it also was a signal to summon a servant (1782).
also dumbbell, "one of a pair of weighted bars used for exercise," by 1785, earlier (from 1711), according to OED, an apparatus like that used to ring a church bell, but without the bell (hence dumb); used for physical exercise but sometimes also to practice ringing changes. See dumb (adj.) + bell (n.). If this is right, the word must have been transferred; earlier 18c. references make mention of "pulling" or "ringing" dumb-bells and note that it can be done only indoors. The following is a footnote to the 1903 reprint of Joseph Strutt's 1801 "The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England":
The origin of the term is somewhat curious. Dumb-bells take their name by analogy, as was pointed out in Notes and Queries in 1861, "from a machine used for exercise, consisting of a rough, heavy, wooden flywheel with a rope passing through and round a spindle ... and set in motion like a church bell." This statement, however, does not sufficiently explain the transference of such a name to the short bar and rounded lead or iron ends of a hand dumb-bell. This difficulty was explained by the late Chancellor Ferguson in a paper read before the Archaeological Institute in 1895, wherein a dumb-bell apparatus, now at Lord Sackville's seat at Knowle, was described and illustrated. The roller round which the rope winds and unwinds has four iron arms, each of which has a leaden poise or ball at the end, just like the end of an ordinary hand dumb-bell. This Knowle example is fixed in an attic and the rope passed through to a gallery beneath. Anyone pulling the rope would get much the same exercise as in pulling a bell rope in a church tower, but without annoying his neighbours by the noise. There used to be a similar apparatus at New College, Oxford.
Figurative sense of "blockhead, stupid person" attested by 1918, American English college slang.