Ask Difference

Chime vs. Toll — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Urooj Arif — Updated on April 3, 2024
Chime refers to the melodious ringing of bells, often for notification or celebration, while toll signifies a more solemn or significant bell sound, marking time or commemorating events.
Chime vs. Toll — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Chime and Toll

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Key Differences

Chimes are typically pleasant, melodious sounds made by bells, which can be heard in various contexts such as clocks announcing the hour, doorbells signaling visitors, or wind chimes moved by the breeze. These sounds are often associated with notifications, celebrations, or simply adding a musical element to the environment. The term "chime" suggests a lighter, more rhythmic, and harmonious sequence of notes produced by bells or bell-like instruments. In contrast, tolling refers to the deliberate, slow ringing of a large bell, often with deeper, more resonant tones. This is commonly associated with significant or solemn occasions, such as marking the passage of time, signaling an event of importance, or commemorating moments of remembrance. The act of tolling a bell carries a sense of gravity and is often used in ceremonies, religious services, and to honor the deceased.
Chimes can serve various functions, from indicating time on clock towers to creating an atmosphere of peace and tranquility in gardens or homes through decorative wind chimes. They are designed to be pleasing to the ear and are often used in settings where the goal is to attract attention or provide a sense of welcome. On the other hand, the toll of a bell is imbued with tradition and ritual, serving as a call to gather, to mourn, or to reflect. The tolling of a bell can resonate with deep emotional significance, drawing communities together in moments of significance.
The sound of chimes is generally created by multiple bells or metal tubes of different sizes, allowing for a range of tones that can be played in specific sequences to produce music or signal specific times. Wind chimes, for example, use this variety of sizes to create a harmonious array of sounds when moved by the air. Conversely, the toll of a bell usually involves a single, large bell struck at a measured pace, its singular deep tones echoing to mark an event or occasion with solemnity.
Chimes often enhance daily life or celebrations, adding a layer of auditory beauty to moments of joy, arrival, or the passage of time in everyday settings. They can be found in public spaces, homes, and places of worship, signaling time or enhancing the ambiance. Meanwhile, the tolling of a bell, while also marking time, is particularly associated with moments of contemplation, loss, or communal gathering, offering a sonic symbol of respect, remembrance, or warning.
Both chimes and tolls play important roles in cultural and social rituals around the world, symbolizing the diverse ways in which bells are used to communicate, celebrate, and commemorate. While chimes bring melody and rhythm to our surroundings, tolls remind us of the depth and significance of time, memory, and communal experiences.
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Comparison Chart

Sound Character

Melodious and rhythmic
Deep and resonant

Associated Occasions

Celebrations, notifications
Solemn events, commemorations

Function

Attract attention, signal time, enhance ambiance
Mark significant moments, honor traditions

Typical Instruments

Multiple bells or metal tubes
Single, large bell

Emotional Impact

Uplifting, welcoming
Reflective, somber

Compare with Definitions

Chime

A melodious sound produced by bells or bell-like instruments.
The clock tower's chime at noon brought a sense of normalcy to the town square.

Toll

The slow, solemn ringing of a large bell, often with deep tones.
The toll of the church bell marked the beginning of the memorial service.

Chime

Light, harmonious, and rhythmic.
The wind chimes in the garden created a tranquil atmosphere with their gentle melodies.

Toll

Signifies significant, often solemn occasions.
The bell tolled at midnight, signaling the end of the vigil.

Chime

Often used for marking time or signaling in a pleasant manner.
The soft chime of the doorbell announced the arrival of guests.

Toll

Deliberate, deep, and resonant.
The tolling of the bell echoed through the streets, inspiring a moment of silence.

Chime

Celebrations, everyday notifications, enhancing environments.
The festive chimes from the carousel added to the joy of the fair.

Toll

Commemorations, ceremonies, solemn gatherings.
As the community gathered, the solemn toll of the bell united them in remembrance.

Chime

Adds a musical element to surroundings, signaling joy or presence.
The chime of the opening door at the café welcomed visitors with a cheerful note.

Toll

Evokes reflection, respect, and communal contemplation.
The toll that marked the firefighter's last call brought the crowd to a hush.

Chime

An apparatus for striking a bell or set of bells to produce a musical sound.

Toll

A charge payable to use a bridge or road
Motorway tolls
A toll bridge

Chime

Often chimes(Music) A set of tuned bells used as an orchestral instrument.

Toll

A single ring of a bell
She heard the Cambridge School bell utter a single toll

Chime

A single bell, as in the mechanism of a clock.

Toll

Charge a toll for the use of (a bridge or road)
The report advocates motorway tolling

Chime

The sound produced by or as if by a bell or bells.

Toll

(with reference to a bell) sound or cause to sound with a slow, uniform succession of strokes, as a signal or announcement
The priest began tolling the bell
The cathedral bells began to toll for evening service

Chime

Agreement; accord
A flawless chime of romance and reality.

Toll

A fixed charge or tax for a privilege, especially for passage across a bridge or along a road.

Chime

The rim of a cask.

Toll

A charge for a service, such as a telephone call to another country.

Chime

To sound with a harmonious ring when struck.

Toll

An amount or extent of loss or destruction, as of life, health, or property
"Poverty and inadequate health care take their toll on the quality of a community's health" (Los Angeles Times).

Chime

To make a musical sound by striking a bell or set of bells.

Toll

The act of tolling.

Chime

To be in agreement or accord
Harmonize.

Toll

The sound of a bell being struck.

Chime

To produce (music) by striking bells.

Toll

To exact as a toll.

Chime

To strike (a bell) to produce music.

Toll

To charge a fee for using (a structure, such as a bridge).

Chime

To signal or make known by chiming
The clock chimed noon.

Toll

To sound (a large bell) slowly at regular intervals.

Chime

To call, send, or welcome by chiming.

Toll

To announce or summon by tolling.

Chime

To repeat insistently.

Toll

To sound in slowly repeated single tones.

Chime

(musical instruments) A musical instrument producing a sound when struck, similar to a bell (e.g. a tubular metal bar) or actually a bell. Often used in the plural to refer to the set: the chimes.
Hugo had a recording of someone playing the chimes against a background of surf noise that she found calming.
Sylvia was a chime player in the school orchestra.

Toll

A fee paid for some liberty or privilege, particularly for the privilege of passing over a bridge or on a highway, or for that of vending goods in a fair, market, etc.

Chime

An individual ringing component of such a set.
Peter removed the C♯ chime from its mounting so that he could get at the dust that had accumulated underneath.

Toll

Loss or damage incurred through a disaster.
The war has taken its toll on the people.

Chime

A small bell or other ringing or tone-making device as a component of some other device.
The professor had stuffed a wad of gum into the chime of his doorbell so that he wouldn't be bothered.

Toll

(business) A fee for using any kind of material processing service.
We can handle on a toll basis your needs for spray drying, repackaging, crushing and grinding, and dry blending.

Chime

The sound of such an instrument or device.
The copier gave a chime to indicate that it had finished printing.

Toll

(US) A tollbooth.
We will be replacing some manned tolls with high-speed device readers.

Chime

A small hammer or other device used to strike a bell.
Strike the bell with the brass chime hanging on the chain next to it.

Toll

A liberty to buy and sell within the bounds of a manor.

Chime

(intransitive) To make the sound of a chime.
The microwave chimed to indicate that it was done cooking.
I got up for lunch as soon as the wall clock began chiming noon.

Toll

A portion of grain taken by a miller as a compensation for grinding.

Chime

(transitive) To cause to sound in harmony; to play a tune, as upon a set of bells; to move or strike in harmony.

Toll

The act or sound of tolling.

Chime

(transitive) To utter harmoniously; to recite rhythmically.

Toll

(transitive) To impose a fee for the use of.
Once more it is proposed to toll the East River bridges.

Chime

(intransitive) To agree; to correspond.
The other lab's results chimed with mine, so I knew we were on the right track with the research.

Toll

(ambitransitive) To levy a toll on (someone or something).

Chime

To make a rude correspondence of sounds; to jingle, as in rhyming.

Toll

(transitive) To take as a toll.

Chime

The harmonious sound of bells, or of musical instruments.
Instruments that made melodius chime.

Toll

To pay a toll or tallage.

Chime

A set of bells musically tuned to each other; specif., in the pl., the music performed on such a set of bells by hand, or produced by mechanism to accompany the striking of the hours or their divisions.
We have heard the chimes at midnight.

Toll

(ergative) To ring (a bell) slowly and repeatedly.
Martin tolled the great bell every day.
Ask not for whom the bell tolls.

Chime

Pleasing correspondence of proportion, relation, or sound.

Toll

(transitive) To summon by ringing a bell.
The ringer tolled the workers back from the fields for vespers.

Chime

To sound in harmonious accord, as bells.

Toll

(figuratively) To make a sound as if made by a bell.

Chime

To be in harmony; to agree; to suit; to harmonize; to correspond; to fall in with.
Everything chimed in with such a humor.

Toll

To draw; pull; tug; drag.

Chime

To join in a conversation; to express assent; - followed by in or in with.

Toll

(transitive) To tear in pieces.

Chime

To make a rude correspondence of sounds; to jingle, as in rhyming.

Toll

(transitive) To draw; entice; invite; allure.
Hou many virgins shal she tolle and drawe to þe Lord - "Life of Our Lady"

Chime

To cause to sound in harmony; to play a tune, as upon a set of bells; to move or strike in harmony.
And chime their sounding hammers.

Toll

(transitive) To lure with bait; tole (especially, fish and animals).

Chime

To utter harmoniously; to recite rhythmically.
Chime his childish verse.

Toll

To take away; to vacate; to annul.

Chime

A percussion instrument consisting of vertical metal tubes of different lengths that are struck with a hammer

Toll

(legal) To suspend.
The defendant’s wrongful conduct.

Chime

Emit a sound;
Bells and gongs chimed

Toll

To take away; to vacate; to annul.

Toll

To draw; to entice; to allure. See Tole.

Toll

To cause to sound, as a bell, with strokes slowly and uniformly repeated; as, to toll the funeral bell.

Toll

To strike, or to indicate by striking, as the hour; to ring a toll for; as, to toll a departed friend.
Slow tolls the village clock the drowsy hour.

Toll

To call, summon, or notify, by tolling or ringing.
When hollow murmurs of their evening bellsDismiss the sleepy swains, and toll them to their cells.

Toll

To pay toll or tallage.

Toll

To take toll; to raise a tax.
Well could he [the miller] steal corn and toll thrice.
No Italian priestShall tithe or toll in our dominions.

Toll

To collect, as a toll.

Toll

The sound of a bell produced by strokes slowly and uniformly repeated.

Toll

A tax paid for some liberty or privilege, particularly for the privilege of passing over a bridge or on a highway, or for that of vending goods in a fair, market, or the like.

Toll

A liberty to buy and sell within the bounds of a manor.

Toll

A portion of grain taken by a miller as a compensation for grinding.

Toll

A fee levied for the use of roads or bridges (used for maintenance)

Toll

Value measured by what must be given or done or undergone to obtain something;
The cost in human life was enormous
The price of success is hard work
What price glory?

Toll

The sound of a bell being struck;
Saved by the bell
She heard the distant toll of church bells

Toll

Ring slowly;
For whom the bell tolls

Toll

Charge a fee for using;
Toll the bridges into New York City

Common Curiosities

Can a bell both chime and toll?

Yes, depending on how it's rung, a bell can produce either a chime or a toll.

What makes wind chimes produce different sounds?

Wind chimes vary in material, length, thickness, and size of tubes, which affect the pitch and harmony of the sounds they produce.

Why do churches use tolls instead of chimes for memorials?

Tolls are used for their deep, resonant sound that signifies solemnity and reverence, suitable for memorials.

How can the toll of a bell affect a community?

It can bring a community together in reflection or commemoration, marking moments of significance with a shared experience.

Can chimes be used for alerts or alarms?

Yes, chimes are often used for alerts, alarms, or notifications, especially in settings where a pleasant sound is preferred.

Do modern technologies incorporate chimes?

Yes, many devices use chime sounds for notifications, alarms, and user interface sounds to signal information in a pleasant manner.

Are chimes always pleasant to hear?

Generally, chimes are designed to be melodious and pleasant, though personal preferences may vary.

Is the tolling of a bell a global practice for mourning?

While many cultures use bell tolling in mourning, practices vary worldwide with different traditions and symbols for commemoration.

What's the significance of a bell tolling at a funeral?

It signifies paying respect, marking the passage of an individual, and calling the community to remember and honor the deceased.

How do chimes and tolls contribute to cultural practices?

They play roles in rituals, celebrations, and communal gatherings, carrying symbolic meanings and fostering shared experiences.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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