The expression "tolling" is derived from the English tradition of "telling" of the death by signalling with a bell. The term tolling may also be used to signify a single bell being rung slowly, and possibly half-muffled at a commemoration event many years later.
Three bells would be rung around the time of a death. The first was the "passing bell" to warn of impending death, followed by the death knell which was the ringing of a bell immediately after the death, and the last was the "lych bell", or "corpse bell" which was rung at the funeral as the procession approached the church. This latter is closest to what is known today as the Funeral toll.
Today, customs vary regarding when and for how long the bell tolls at a funeral.
In churches with full-circle English bells, for commemorative services such as funerals, memorial services and Remembrance Sunday, the bells are rung half-muffled instead with a leather pad on one side of the clapper in call changes or method ringing. Very rarely are they rung fully-muffled with pads both sides. This can often be a quarter peal or peal – the latter lasting three hours.