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dumb

Syllabification: dumb
Pronunciation: /dəm
 
/

Definition of dumb in English:

adjective

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.
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 [predicative] 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.
2 informal , chiefly North American Stupid: a dumb question
More example sentences
  • I couldn't tell if he was being stupid, dumb, or idiotic.
  • ‘You're so slow and stupid and dumb,’ she grumbled, opening it and taking out a pencil.
  • Throughout the years, I've had personal contact with some folks that were heavy dope smokers and I always thought they were just extra dumb or extra stupid.
Synonyms
3(Of a computer terminal) able only to transmit data to or receive data from a computer; having no independent processing capability. Often contrasted with intelligent.
Example sentences
  • Users could access this centralized computer only by means of dumb terminals.
  • The system was accessed by way of dumb terminals and, later, terminal emulators on PCs.
  • Why are we still using the equivalent of a dumb block-mode mainframe terminal to connect ourselves to the Internet?

verb

[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

Origin

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

More
  • In Old English dumb signified ‘unable to speak’, and could apply to both humans and animals (dumb beasts). The sense ‘stupid, unintelligent’ dates from the Middle Ages. These days the ‘stupid’ sense has come to dominate the word to such an extent that it has overshadowed the original meaning, so using it in that sense can cause offence. Speech-impaired or a similar alternative is safer. The original meaning does, however, lie behind the dumb-bell (early 18th century), which originally referred to an apparatus similar to that used to ring a church bell but without the bell making it therefore noiseless or ‘dumb’. It is also behind dummy (late 16th century). The original sense was ‘a person who cannot speak’, then (mid 18th century) ‘an imaginary fourth player in whist’. This gave rise to ‘a substitute for the real thing’ (e.g. a rubber teat, a blank round of ammunition), and ‘a model of a human being’ (mid 19th century).

    A person considered stupid began to be called a dumbo in the USA in the 1950s, probably inspired by the 1941 Disney cartoon film Dumbo, which featured a flying elephant. The elephant's name was probably based on jumbo. Worry about things being dumbed down, or having their intellectual content reduced so as to be accessible to a larger number of people, seems very recent, but the phrase goes back to 1933. See also blonde, dizzy, limb

Usage

Although dumb meaning ‘not able to speak’ is the older sense, it has been overwhelmed by the newer sense (meaningstupid’) 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).

Derivatives

dumbly

1
adverb
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.

dumbness

2
noun
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.

Words that rhyme with dumb

become, benumb, Brum, bum, chum, come, crumb, cum, drum, glum, gum, ho-hum, hum, Kara Kum, lum, mum, numb, plum, plumb, Rhum, rhumb, rum, scrum, scum, slum, some, strum, stum, succumb, sum, swum, thrum, thumb, tum, yum-yum

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