As I was working out in the gym today, I was staring at the rows of shiny dumbbells and wondered how the bar with weights on each end got its name. Dictionary and search no help. Would appreciate your help in this regard.

From the American Heritage Dictionary :

It doesn’t say precisely how we got from “A weight consisting of a short bar with a metal ball or disk at each end that is lifted for muscular development and exercise” (definition 1) to “Slang A stupid person; a dolt” (definition 2) but a) a big metal weight isn’t notoriously smart and b) more to the point (for reasons no doubt having to do with prejudice against deaf people) “dumb” is a slang term for “stupid”, so “dumbbell” is kind of a natural.

From http://www.st-ignatius-loyola.com/trivia10.html:

“Church bells were an important part of life during the Middle Ages, and ringing them properly required a surprising amount of skill. But it was almost impossible for beginners to practice without driving townspeople crazy from the noise … at least until someone invented a set of dumb bells - weights suspended from ropes - that worked just like the real bells, except that they didn’t make any noise. Working with the heavy weights developed the user’s bell-ringing skills and his physique, so much so that non-bellringers began using them to get into shape. The name “dumbbell” came to apply to any set of weights that helped you get in shape … whether or not they had anything to do with bells.”

Thanks to the 2 of you! One chance: I rate your response : A+.