Definition of dumb in English:


Syllabification: dumb
Pronunciation: /dəm


  • 1 offensive (Of a person) unable to speak, most typically because of congenital deafness: he was born deaf, dumb, and blind
    More example sentences
    • Any blind or dumb person knows how unsafe it is in this land known as paradise.
    • When the devil had come out, the dumb man began to speak.
    • Then we have a black girl who's built like the rest, and she's dumb, she can't speak, she uses sign language.
  • 1.1(Of animals) unable to speak as a natural state and thus regarded as helpless or deserving pity.
    More example sentences
    • Sara felt herself pitying the poor, dumb creature.
    • The bovine reference seems apt since I keep standing like a dumb beast on the wrong side of escalators, and walking down footpaths on the wrong side so that people have to go round me.
    • Another dumb creature has also been in the limelight.
  • 1.2 [predic.] Temporarily unable or unwilling to speak: she stood dumb while he poured out a stream of abuse
  • 1.3 [attributive] Resulting in or expressed by speechlessness: they stared in dumb amazement
    More example sentences
    • We stared at her in dumb amazement before we burst out laughing.


[with object] Back to top  
  • 1 (dumb something down) • informal Simplify or reduce the intellectual content of something so as to make it accessible to a larger number of people: critics have accused publishers of dumbing down books
    More example sentences
    • How did you make the book accessible without dumbing it down?
    • It insults our intelligence, dumbs the global experience down for us into easily digestible particles, and lies when it could really enlighten.
    • Still, it's important to have real scientists getting the word out, explaining results, not letting popularizers dumb it down, and not letting people leap to conclusions.
  • 1.1 [no object] (dumb down) Become less intellectually challenging: the need to dumb down for mass audiences
    More example sentences
    • The reason why dumbing down and tabloid trivialisation is so widespread is that it works.
    • What I'm talking about here is a tried and tested tabloid approach: dumb down, sex up and sensationalise.
    • The show's success bolsters his theory that popular culture, far from dumbing down, is smartening up.
  • 2 literary Make dumb or unheard; silence: a splendor that dazed the mind and dumbed the tongue



More example sentences
  • When he was done speaking, he kind of ushered me offstage with him, and, dumbly, I followed.
  • But it's more a question of identity; of doing more than dumbly assenting to every Republican whim.
  • I was standing there dumbly trying to absorb the enormity of what I had witnessed when it struck me that I had a family to worry about.


More example sentences
  • There is no distinction in India between deafness and deaf and dumbness and, because Ian can speak, they have trouble believing that he cannot hear.
  • At the time, it seemed dazzling in its dumbness.
  • Ear research is in an advanced stage, and dumbness also could be cured.


Old English, of Germanic origin; related to Old Norse dumbr and Gothic dumbs 'mute', also to Dutch dom 'stupid' and German dumm 'stupid'.


Although dumb meaning ‘not able to speak’ is the older sense, it has been overwhelmed by the newer sense (meaning ‘stupid’) to such an extent that the use of the first sense is now almost certain to cause offense. Alternatives such as speech-impaired should be used instead. See also deaf-mute (usage).

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