Dictionary > English Dictionary > Definition, synonym and antonym of dumb
Meaning of dumb by Wiktionary Dictionary



    • IPA: /dʌm/
    • Rhymes: -ʌm

    Etymology 1

    From Middle English dumb, from Old English dumb ( “silent, silent, speechless, mute, unable to speak” ), from Proto-Germanic *dumbaz ( “dull, dumb” ), from Proto-Indo-European *dʰeubʰ- ( “to whisk, smoke, darken, obscure” ). Cognate with Scots dumb ( “dumb, silent” ), North Frisian dom, domme ( “dumb, stupid” ), West Frisian dom ( “dumb, stupid” ), Dutch dom ( “dumb, stupid” ), German dumm ( “dumb, stupid” ), Swedish dum ( “stupid” ), Icelandic dumbur ( “dumb, mute” ) .

    In ordinary spoken English, a phrase like "He is dumb" is interpreted as "He is stupid" rather than "He lacks the power of speech". The latter example, however, is the original sense of the word. The senses of stupid, unintellectual, and pointless developed under the influence of the German word dumm ( which itself derives from Old High German tumb ) .


    dumb ( comparative dumber, superlative dumbest )

    1. Unable to speak; lacking power of speech .
      His younger brother was born dumb, and communicated with sign language .
    2. ( informal, pejorative, especially of a person ) extremely stupid .
      You are so dumb because you don't even know how to make toast!
    3. ( figuratively ) Pointless, foolish, lacking intellectual content or value .
      This is dumb! We're driving in circles! We should have asked for directions an hour ago!
      Brendan had the dumb job of moving boxes from one conveyor belt to another .
    Derived terms

    Etymology 2

    From Middle English dumbien, from Old English dumbian ( more commonly in compound ādumbian ( “to become mute or dumb; keep silence; hold one’s peace” ) ), from Proto-Germanic *dumbēnan, *dumbōnan ( “to be silent, become dumb” ), from Proto-Indo-European *dʰeubʰ- ( “to whisk, smoke, darken, obscure” ). Cognate with German dummen ( “to become dumb” ) .


    dumb ( third-person singular simple present dumbs present participle dumbing, simple past and past participle dumbed )

    1. To silence.
    2. ( transitive ) To make stupid.
    3. ( transitive ) To represent as stupid.
    4. ( transitive ) To reduce the intellectual demands of.
    Derived terms

Explanation of dumb by Wordnet Dictionary


    1. unable to speak because of hereditary deafness

    2. lacking the power of human speech

    3. dumb animals
    4. temporarily incapable of speaking

    5. struck dumb
    6. slow to learn or understand

    7. dumb officials make some really dumb decisions

    Definition of dumb by GCIDE Dictionary


    1. Dumb ( dŭm ), a. [AS. dumb; akin to D. dom stupid, dumb, Sw. dumb, Goth. dumbs; cf. Gr. blind. See Deaf, and cf. Dummy.]
      1. Destitute of the power of speech; unable; to utter articulate sounds; as, “the dumb brutes”.

      To unloose the very tongues even of dumb creatures. Hooker.

      2. Not willing to speak; mute; silent; not speaking; not accompanied by words; as, “dumb show”.

      This spirit, dumb to us, will speak to him. Shak.

      To pierce into the dumb past. J. C. Shairp.

      3. Lacking brightness or clearness, as a color. [R.]

      Her stern was painted of a dumb white or dun color. De Foe.

      4. Lacking intelligence; having poor judgment; stupid; dull-witted; -- of persons.

      5. Exhibiting poor judgment or lack of wisdom; leading predictably to unfavorable consequences; -- of actions.

      Deaf and dumb. See Deaf-mute. -- Dumb ague, or Dumb chill, a form of intermittent fever which has no well-defined “chill.” [U.S.] -- Dumb animal, any animal except man; -- usually restricted to a domestic quadruped; -- so called in contradistinction to man, who is a “speaking animal.” -- Dumb cake, a cake made in silence by girls on St. Mark's eve, with certain mystic ceremonies, to discover their future husbands. Halliwell. -- Dumb cane ( Bot. ), a west Indian plant of the Arum family ( Dieffenbachia seguina ), which, when chewed, causes the tongue to swell, and destroys temporarily the power of speech. -- Dumb crambo. See under crambo. -- Dumb show. Formerly, a part of a dramatic representation, shown in pantomime. “Inexplicable dumb shows and noise.” Shak. Signs and gestures without words; as, to tell a story in dumb show. -- To strike dumb, to confound; to astonish; to render silent by astonishment; or, it may be, to deprive of the power of speech.

      Syn. -- Silent; speechless; noiseless. See Mute.

    2. Dumb, v. t. To put to silence. [Obs.] Shak.